The Maharashtra government has imposed a total ban on the produce, possession, and use of plastic bags with effect from June 2018. And have come out with a heavy fine to be levied if plastic bags are even possessed in one’s custody (this will certainly be misused by the authorities to harass the shopkeepers and common man too). While the objective is noble and quite understandable as to how thin plastic bags have clogged our outlets and drainage system and adversely affected the environment on the whole, I have some worthy points which deserve at least preliminary consideration and perusal.
At the outset, I would like to state that I may be corrected and enlightened if I am wrong in the views and suggestion which follow below.
It is a wrong notion developed in common man that ‘plastic is hazardous and we should never use plastic’. Plastic has made it convenient for us to handle any food items, vegetables, water, medicine, garments, stationery, and shampoo, washing powder food grains, vegetable oil, milk, fruits and many more items – anytime and anywhere. It has made our life easy. It has replaced paper in many areas and thus saved a lot of trees being cut which is very much to stop global warming.
Plastic waste, of course, is a serious concern when it is not collected and reused. All plastic can be recycled and reused. It can be mixed with bitumen and used for road surfacing. It can be converted into fuel for furnaces by pyrolysis process. We can also generate electricity from any plastic waste with hardly 1 per cent residue.
In fact, it is our prime responsibility to throw or dispose of the plastic items or any wastage in dustbins so that these can be sent for recycling. We need to change our habits and not outrightly ban plastic.
Whereas thousands of trees and lakhs of litres of water are used to manufacture paper! An enormous amount of energy is also consumed during the paper manufacture process which reduces the carbon footprint. He contaminated effluent water is being disposed in river or sea with no proper treatment and thus polluting the environment on the whole.
Replacing plastics with metals like aluminium, tin or steel is also not a viable solution – either from the point of economics or from the point of environmental friendliness as manufacturing metal products also consumes enormous energy and water – not to talk about the environmental degradation due to mining, air pollution, and water pollution.
Plastic is made out of by-products left after processing of crude oil which is extracted from the sea. Hence, the alternatives – iron and other ores used for making metal are depleting our land. Paper is taking away our trees and pushing us towards global warming.
So when we say “Ban Plastic”. Are we talking about saving the environment? Whom should we blame? A civilian who throws trashes not in the dustbin or, the Municipal Corporation which has not developed an efficient system to collect waste and recycle? They can never prevent the manufacturers from using plastic. Hence, they have picked up a soft target – the end consumers who are at the end of the value chain. Earlier too when there was a talk of the plastic ban, the big stores, shopping malls, garment shops etc. came out with think and big plastic bags; but taxed the consumers by charging a price for the bags!
(This is the first part of the Diary and the remaining portion will continue tomorrow.)
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)