If you see the above scene in Mandur that is the ugly backyard of namma Bengaluru, what strikes you as the most important waste category? Most of what you see is plastic. This is the reality that you see even in the garbage dump near your home.
Well, what’s wrong with that? Plastic bags make carrying everything simple, with their light weight and ease of use. After use, just throw them, and they’re out of sight and mind. Easy, isn’t it?
But then, here are some issues for you to ponder about plastics:
Do you remember the rains that drowned Mumbai in 2005? This choked the drains of the Mumbai city because of which the entire city got flooded. This was because a large number of residents did not care where they threw their plastic bags.
Plastic is not biodegradable, so the plastic you throw will remain as it is for hundreds of years. It cannot break down its elements, to join nature – it will remain as it is.
The food waste that you tie in a plastic and throw – ever wondered what happens to it? Animals try to tear it open and eat the food inside, and eat plastic in the process. Watch this video. If you love cows and want to feel their pain, watch this Plastic Cow video.
Mixed waste in landfill releases gases including ammonia and methane, thereby creating unbearable stench to people living near landfills – something that we saw this year in the form of Mandur garbage crisis.
Plastic that is super-thin (below 40 microns for Karnataka) is not easy to recycle. People tend to throw it; as it is thin, it is likely to tear and become unusable. This is used generally to throw garbage by most people, and is bad for environment in many ways.
Plastic bags release toxic fumes into air when burnt.The residual ash contaminates the environment.
- So-called biodegradeable garbage bags are not actually bio-degradable, they are just degradable. They physically disintegrate and remain in nature as small plastic particles – they don’t break down into their elements such as carbon, hydrogen or water. Microbial degradation does not happen in this case. Read this to know more.
Problems associated with plastic bags include use of non-renewable resources such as crude oil, gas and coal, disposal, and environmental impacts.
Production of plastics below 20 microns was banned in India in 2002. Later, Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 was formulated, but the rules have not been enforced. Main reason, as Centre for Science and Environment puts it, several lawsuits filed by the manufacturers of plastics below 40 microns against these laws, which are still awaiting a final judgment.
Different states have fixed different standards as minimum thickness for the plastic produced. In Kerala it is 30 microns, while in Himachal it is 70 microns. For us in Bangalore and Karnataka, it is 40 microns.
Well – now, did you know there is a day to spread awareness about plastics? July 3 is International Plastic Bag-free Day. Many organisations in the city have warmed up to the cause.
Saahas’s online campaign
Saahas Zero Waste has started an online campaign to spread awareness among people to minimise, reuse, reduce and recycle plastic bags. Every day, a slide that explains one aspect in the campaign is posted online.
Meenakshi Ravi, Communications Co-ordinator from Saahas, explains the campaign: “Plastic bags, once believed to be an eco-friendly option when compared to paper bags, are now a major environmental hazard.” Saahas’s campaign will be mainly on facebook, and will focus on the huge impact of plastic bags and how everyone has a role to play in encouraging indiscriminate use of plastic bags.
“Indiscriminate usage and careless disposal of plastic bags has resulted in choking our drains, impacting our sewage system, affecting marine life, cows and even birds and trees. Plastic cannot be burnt either. It does not decompose. So every plastic bag we make, stays with us forever. We want to use this campaign to create awareness on all these issues and also provide some simple option that could help significantly reduce plastic bag consumption,” says Meenakshi, in an email to Citizen Matters.
Petition to enforce ban on low grade plastic
Malleshwaram Swabhimaana Initiative (MSI), a 15-year-old community-based organisation in Malleshwaram, has started a petition that urges the Chief Minister of Karnataka, BBMP commissioners and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board to enforce the existing ban on production and sale of plastic below 40 microns. The petition can be found here.
The petition demands constituting of an implementing / monitoring authority to monitor the production and sale of plastic below 40 microns, and a penalty system. The organisation also proposes alternatives to plastic, like cellulose bags and newspaper covers.
MSI will also undertake a Bring-Your-Own-Bag campaign in the Malleshwaram 8th cross market, to spread awareness among people to get their own bags to the market to reduce the usage of plastic. They will talk to the vendors asking them to buy biodegradable cellulose bags instead of plastic.
No-plastic bag challenge
Imagine a month without any plastic in your life. Is it possible? Kasa Muktha Bellandur group, inspired by the website http://www.plasticfreejuly.org, challenges people to take this up. This means saying no to every piece of plastic you see. No plastic bags at the grocery store, no buying rice and daal in plastic covers, no bread in plastic wrap, no chocolates, no take-outs from restaurants in plastic boxes, no flowers delivered in plastic covers, no disposable sanitary napkins, and more.
The forum invites people to write a 500-word essay on the same, after giving it a try and showing others how it is done. The essays can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org – special preference to writeups from children.