Real danger

Real danger

The Supreme Court has rightly remarked that a plastic time bomb is ticking away in the country. The statistics presented before the court last week is frightening for the size of the plastic mountain that is rising every day and for the dangerous implications it has for public health.

The plastic waste generated every year amounts to 5.6 million tonnes and only about 60 per cent of it is collected and recycled.  Even these figures may not give the real picture because the official data given by the Central Pollution Control Board is likely to be on the conservative side. The uncollected waste gets thrown away and is littered everywhere, and the cumulative hazard keeps increasing every day.

On the average about 7 per cent of the solid waste generated in the cities is plastic. There is a four-fold increase in the generation of plastic waste in the country in the last 12 years.

Plastic is a thing of every day use in many activities of life and it may be unrealistic to think that it can be eliminated. The options are to reduce their usage as much as possible and to manage the waste as efficiently and completely as possible.

The biggest problem with plastic is that it is not bio-degradable and lasts even decades. They also clog the drains, and instances of cattle choking on them are not uncommon. Few other man-made products have adversely affected the environment as much as plastic has. Even villages are not free from plastic waste because the use of packed and packaged materials is spreading in the country.

The court has asked all major civic bodies  and the pollution control board to report to it on  whether the management of plastic waste is in accordance with statutory requirements and how best the steps for collection and recycling can be implemented.

The major responsibility rests with the civic bodies but their performance in the area of garbage disposal and solid waste management is very  poor. They should be made accountable for the management of solid waste but it is difficult proposition.

There are also genuine problems about disposal of waste. Fortunately there is increasing public awareness of the dangers of plastic and of the need to reduce its consumption. The best way to handle the problem is to reduce consumption.

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