New Delhi: In a recently concluded third United Nations (UN) Environment Assembly, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 193 nations including India pledged to work towards a sustainable lifestyle and a planet free of plastic and pollution. The countries asked the UN to make it easier to reduce, reuse, recycle and prevent waste generation. It is a crisis that needs to be handled on war footing.
When Cyclone Ochki with tidal waves of up to 4.35 metres in height hit Mumbai’s beaches on December 5 and 6, Mumbai woke up to heaps of garbage deposits on its beaches. Around 80,000 to 1,00,000 thousand kilograms of garbage out of which most of the waste was plastic washed ashore. Cyclone Ochki witnessed people from all walks of life coming out of their house and helping Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in cleaning the beach.
Even the floods in Mumbai during one of the heaviest rains since 2005, was also compounded by plastic clogging drains and even when the water receded, it was the plastic in the muck that remained that made cleaning up difficult for citizens and local authorities alike.
— Bindu re (@FlashesPearlies) August 25, 2017
From Mumbai to Delhi the issues may be different, but the cause remains the same – the omnipresence of plastic that stubbornly remains in the system for years and causes irrepairable damage.
Ghazipur landfill in east Delhi, which is Asia’s oldest functional landfill collapsed this year under its own weight of 80 feet high mountain of garbage that has been piling up since 1984, and even after its life span was over in 2002. According to a report by non-profit organisation, Centre for Science and Environment, out of close to 4.74 million tonnes of garbage lying at Ghazipur landfill site, about thousands of tonnes is plastic.
From rivers to oceans to landfills, every nook and cranny has become a dumping ground. While aftermath of Cyclone Ochki showed a grim reality of Indian oceans and how they are loaded with plastic we litter, Ghazipur landfill gives a glimpse of the amount of waste we generate, especially plastic waste.
2017 saw many actions, not just ftom the government, international community but also individuals.
Top 7 Trends Of This Year To Fight India's Plastic Waste Crisis
- Say No To Plastic | While Maharashtra government imposed a blanket ban on all kinds of plastic carry bags, Delhi and Goa reeled under a ban on use of plastic bags under 50 micron (thickness). In Maharashtra, from next year, post March-April, i.e, post Gudi Padwa in 2018, only eco-friendly bags will be used as an alternative to plastic bags.
On the other hand, in order to achieve its target of plastic free Goa by 2022, the government banned use of all kinds of plastic in all government offices. Not only that, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar led the way by changing his lifestyle and shunning all kinds of plastic from his life.
- Governments Get Pro Active | Kerala government launched Haritha Keralam (Green Kerala) Mission with an aim of making Kerala clean and green. Under the mission, various out of the box steps have been taken, like, green weddings. Under green weddings, the usage of plastic, disposable glasses, plates, thermocol decorations were prohibited in the wedding. The idea of green wedding garnered such positive response that a village in Kannur district planned to give marriage certificates only if green protocol is followed during the wedding.
Also Read: No Marriage Certificates Will Be Granted If Found Guilty Of Using Plastic Plates During Wedding In This Village Of Kerala
Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s most populous city used to dispose 13,000 kilos of plastic waste, generated every day, by burning it. The city used to choke under the smoke, but in January this year, Indore Municipal Corporation set up a Plastic Collection Centre (PCC). PCC aimed at reusing and recycling the city’s plastic waste helped in reducing dangerous levels of pollution engulfing the city.
Also Read: Indore’s Swachh Turnaround: Recycling 50% Of Its Plastic Waste
- Walk The Talk: The Plastic Roads | “1 tonne of plastic is used to make just 1 kilometre of road”, says Professor Rajagopalan Vasudevan, 72-year-old Chemistry professor from Madurai’s Thiagarajar College of Engineering, who is a brain behind the radical idea of constructing roads with plastic waste. Roads made of plastic are not only strong but durable and it has been proven by the repeated tests conducted on the roads. 12 states across India have acknowledged this idea and in Tamil Nadu more than 1,200 km of plastic roads have been built.
- Converting Plastic Waste To Fuel |Srinagar Municipal Corporation in November this year decided to use fuel from plastic waste to tackle the city’s plastic problem. East Delhi Municipal Corporation also launched a pilot project to convert plastic waste into fuel. Goa has also built two plants to convert plastic waste from Panaji and Margao to fuel and use it for other purposes.
While 2017 saw all these initiatives to tackle plastic waste, in Maharashtra’s Pune, Medha Tadpatrikar has been converting plastic waste to fuel, since 2010 that too without the aid of a fancy laboratory or a scientific background. A tonne of plastic can approximately produce 600 to 650 litres of fuel, 20 to 25 per cent synthetic gases and 5 to 10 per cent of residual char, which can then be used for road filler.
- Swachh Warriors Wage A War With Plastic Waste |Afroz Shah, leading the biggest beach cleanup in the world in Mumbai’s Versova beach since 2015, has removed 6.2 million kilos of plastic waste. Trying to protect the oceans and marine life, K. Vinod, a fisherman from North Chennai, has also started a beach cleanup drive. It all happened when a shark washed up ashore on Kovalam beach, in Kerala and postmortem report revealed almost 50kgs of plastic in the shark’s belly. This cruel loss of life and its cause made K. Vinod start a cleanup drive along with his friends in North Chennai.
Also Read: Littering Starts With Us, Spoiling Of Our Environment Starts From Us, It Is High Time We Own Up And Take Responsibility: Afroz Shah
- From Cleanup To Recycling Plastic |Plastic pens are one of the widely used items and 43-year-old Lakshmi Menon, an artist from San Francisco is leading a ‘Pen Drive’ that aims at replacing plastic pens with reusable pens or ink pens. The drive that has been backed by the state government of Kerala has urged people to give up plastic pens. As of now, 7-8 lakh pens have been collected which will now be used in making a huge digit 1. Digit ‘1’ will be an installation titled ‘Immini Balya Onnu’ (A Big One) which is a phrase taken from the much-loved book Balyakalasakhi. The installation is intended towards spreading the message of environment conservation and protection.
Also Read: Say No To Plastic: Kerala Wages A War On Plastic With A ‘Pen Drive’
Also from Kerala, Kevin Jacob along with his friends has come out with a way of converting plastic waste into solid bricks. Kevin claims that these bricks are 88% stronger and 10 times less water absorbent than the conventional bricks.
Mrs India 2017 finalist Kalpana Thakur is recycling hotel disposable waste into useful products. One such waste is plastic bottles. She is known as a waste warrior as she collects plastic waste from markets and tourist spots. She turns plastic bottles into pen stands, flower pot, and so on.
- Celebrities Joining The War Against Plastic | Actor Dia Mirza was appointed UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador for India in 2017. She has now shunned plastic out of her life. From toothbrush to packaged bottled water, Dia has managed to ban plastic out of her life.
Also Read: Actor Dia Mirza Shares How She Is Replacing Plastic From Her Life
From being one of the biggest littering items to choking water bodies to threatening marine life, plastic waste is one of the biggest menaces and needs serious attention in the coming year. 2017 witnessed some great moves by both government and individuals, but 2018 needs a more of it.