New Delhi: Single-use plastic has taken over our lives. The pandemic has become another reason for the world to continue using disposables. There is no place for proper disposal of the amount of waste we generate. It is littered in our streets, parks, sidewalks, public places, among others. This ends up in landfills or the water bodies and oceans. Seeping into the groundwater from landfills, or destroying the marine ecosystem, it enters the food chain and comes back to impact our health.
Almost 90 per cent of all plastic ever created has never been recycled. At the current rate, by 2050, landfills will hold 12 billion metric tonnes and there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the oceans, according to an estimate by National Geographic Society. By 2050, Greenhouse gas emissions from plastics would reach 15 per cent of the global carbon budget, says a paper titled ‘Strategies to reduce the global carbon footprint of plastics’ published by an online journal Nature.com. It has become one of the primary reasons for climate change.
So clearly plastic is the real villain?
Our habit of use and throw is.
What can we do about it?
Upvaas in Hindi means fasting. We, Indians, take up Upvaas on the most auspicious days for the health and happiness of our families. The world does Intermittent fasting for better metabolism and health. So why not Upvaas on that one thing destroying our health and planet at the same time – Single-use plastic.
Plastic Upvaas is a people’s movement to start by shunning just one single-use item from our lives. It could be a single-use plastic bottle, polythene bag, straw, tissue paper, toothbrush or anything similar. In today’s world, we are saying just shun surgical masks and switch to reusable cloth masks.
According to a study by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) in May 2020, if only 1 per cent of all of Italy’s COVID waste ends up in the oceans, there would be 10 million new masks at the bottom of the ocean every month. And Italy is not even 1 per cent of the world’s population. Even during our runs and cleanups around the country post the Unlock process, we have seen a new item everywhere – single-use surgical masks. We had not seen a mask littered in the last 4 years of our cleanups across the country. Not only is the COVID waste non-biodegradable but could be categorized as hazardous bio-medical waste. We need to stop now to avoid another crisis at the end of this pandemic.
The surgical masks are made of propylene, a derivative of petroleum, which is a kind of plastic that takes 450 years to decompose. As per a Lancet study in April 2020, the coronavirus can stay up to 7 days on a surgical mask while it doesn’t last for 2 days on cloth. Looking at all the factors, we believe the majority of the population should opt for reusable masks.
Here are some guidelines if you are going in for a DIY (Do It Yourself) cloth mask.
● Two or three-layered mask for maximum protection
● Inner layer to be a hydrophilic material to absorb droplets from your breath. A light coloured cotton fabric is a good choice.
● Outer layer to be a hydrophobic material to repel moisture and droplets. A synthetic material like polyester is a good choice.
You can use these guidelines to check if your mask has enough protection when buying from a shop.
Finally, the problems are too many but should we continue to just blame the authorities and not do something ourselves? No matter how small it is, every drop makes up the ocean. Plastic Upvaas is going to be your contribution to Mother Earth and a Litter Free world.
One less waste, said 7.8 billion people each day!
What’s your #PlasticUpvaas?
(Ripu Daman Bevli is an environmentalist, social activist and founder of Ploggers Of India and is known as the Plogman of India)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.