“Plastic is a menace to the environment”, I have been listening, reading and even effortlessly writing this in my EVS exams since I was a child. I did not understand the “big” concepts of reducing plastic pollution back then, but it turned out that not much had changed in neither my understanding nor my habits. I was the same ignorant child until last month when I read a newspaper article about statistics related to plastic pollution. A chill of realization ran down my spine and served as an eye-opener to me.
I read a lot more about it and talked to people working in the related fields who live in my vicinity and came to know that we often misinterpret or misunderstand certain common concepts. First of them all is “biodegradable plastics”. We recklessly use things like disposable cutlery, trays, baskets, shopping bags, etc. made up of biodegradable plastics because we think that once thrown away, they will eventually go away. But it doesn’t quite workout that way. Some biodegradables do not decompose in the landfill or the waters of the sea. You can’t dump them in your garden compost either. They require high heat (130-degree Celsius) of an industrial compost to breakdown, but not all of such plastics can be used because they leave behind fragments which harm human health. And finally, you can’t even mix them with recyclable wastes because they might ruin the latter in creating new durable plastics.
The second one is the interpretation of the zero waste lifestyle. Though it clearly says that you have to produce absolutely no trash, we can also view it as “lessening” trash. There is a very systematic approach to achieve this. The foremost step requires a person to make the list of all the things that create unnecessary waste like packaged food products, items made from single-use plastics, etc. The next step is to find out solutions; maximising the use of reusable and recyclable products, and making your products. The second is agreeably as tricky as it sounds. Because we are so much surrounded by plastics, that it is nearly out of our limits to restore previous typical materials. Just ask yourself a few questions, and you will know yourself like, the first thing you do at the start of your day is brushing, so what is your toothbrush made of? And what is your toothpaste packaged in?
So what to do now? It is hard to practice; hence should we give up on the whole idea and let things be as they are? I think otherwise. So I made a list of every item in my house that created excessive waste, especially plastic. I was shocked to see that even when there are alternatives, my home was flooded with plastic, simple things like soap cases and fruit baskets were also plastic made. I then shared that list with my parents, and after small discussions for a few days, we decided to cut down kitchen waste. We decided to buy grains, spices, and other bulk items directly from the farmer’s markets. We would control the over demands of other goods like cookies, pickles, jams, chocolates, etc. I, on my level, changed my habits; no more using plastic straws, stopped using some cosmetics packaged in plastic and switched to local yet appreciably good options , carrying a cloth bag for shopping and started using steel bottles only.
As a result, we, a family of eight adults, now generate waste only one bin full of garbage in two days where earlier we had to fill up three in the same period. Our changed habits inspired other families in our neighbourhood, and now we collectively practice it, though not on a prodigious scale. The whole point of sharing my experience was to prove that the concept of reducing plastic pollution is neither “big” nor “difficult”. It is just that we ignore our habits and deeds. We simply talk, talk again, and again, keep talking in circles about problems, and finally conclude that our individual efforts will bring no change. So I leave you on a point to ponder, is it not everyone’s unique contribution in ruining the systems of our planet? And if it is, then why can’t the reverse be true?