War against plastic must continue to save our future

According to a report from the Central Pollution Control Board, India generates 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste a day and most of it remains unprocessed. Combating plastic pollution is a matter of the utmost importance and the need of the hour.  DH file photo

The first synthetic polymer, or plastic as the world knows it, was created in the 20th century. What started as a magic material is part of everything from bags to money and is now one of the largest threats to mankind. 

According to a report from the Central Pollution Control Board, India generates 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste a day and most of it remains unprocessed. Combating plastic pollution is a matter of the utmost importance and the need of the hour. 

Various states like Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and others are realising the gravity of the issue of plastic pollution and consciously moving towards adopting measures for a safer, healthier environment. The situation across Bengaluru is similar. The first major step towards ‘best out of waste’ in the city started in 1996 when demands for a ban on plastic bags were on the rise in Karnataka. 

Two brothers with a plastic business, Rasool and Ahmed Khan, decided to do some experimentation. They then began a novel venture of using plastic waste for road-laying works. They developed Polyblend, which is recycled plastic mixed with bitumen used for road construction. Since then, numerous stretches of road have been laid and numerous potholes have been fixed with this eco-friendly technique in collaboration with the state government.

A few years down the line in 2016, the Karnataka Government imposed a blanket ban on the manufacture, storage, distribution and usage of single-use plastics. It has not been completely effective as the initial vigour reduced due to a lack of sustainable alternatives and the lack of strict implementation by authorities and citizens alike. 

On the bright side, the ban has given opportunities to businesses, initiatives and start-ups that provide sustainable plastic substitutes or have executed ideas that could cut down on the causes of widespread pollution. 

Alternative packaging material if utilised effectively on a wider scale will go a long way in tackling the issue. This has been implemented by renowned organisations with bags, containers, tableware and cutlery manufactured from bagasse and areca, recycled waste and organic materials. It is comparatively expensive and companies like Earthware in Bengaluru handle the production of such materials. 

Start-ups like Hasiru Dala Innovations are trying to rope in waste-pickers to obtain plastic waste and process it further to use in the packaging of major brand products. Veggie to Fridgie, another city-based start-up, makes plastic-free shopping bags and aims to decrease the plastic footprint.

As for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, apart from penalties for offences, the agency has been collaborating with organisations like Hasiru Mithra to increase awareness among vendors, shopkeepers and the public as a whole. 

It has partnered with NGOs to push innovative concepts like tiles made from recycled plastic (re-tiles) undertaken by NGO Swaccha. Though there's a lot that needs to be done, some actions show progress like the ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ theme for World Environment Day 2018.

Bengaluru has been a city with strong anti-plastic norms and has made moves towards an eco-friendly, plastic-free system but there is still a long way to go. There needs to be a fresh focus on major growth in citizen-based initiatives, strict government implementation and timely action from authorities. 

Small but effective steps need to increase to stop the usage of both single-use and multi-layer plastics that threaten sea life as well as flora and fauna everywhere, not to mention the soil, the air, the water and our very existence.
 

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