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Waging war against plastics

It is no secret that there is a lot of garbage out there. From plastic bags and bottles to forest guzzling paper mills, everyday products are wreaking havoc on our environment in a plethora of ways. Fortunately, people are becoming increasingly aware of this. The necessity for sustainable, earth-friendly and recyclable materials in the manufacture of everyday items has become apparent, and consumer demands are increasing as a result.

The definition of the waste generator includes individuals, groups, residential establishments, etc., punishable for failure to comply and extended producer responsibility making producers responsible for environmentally sound management of their plastic products till the end of their life. These arrangements, presently on paper, will be put to serve test in practice.

A simplified material balance helps to uncover the dimensions of the problem and indicate areas critical for success. Plastic waste can be contained by a combination of the following measures reduce usage by finding substitutes, recycle the waste of the rest so that fresh produce is correspondingly reduced, where ever possible put waste to alternate use and failing these, burn or dump. The last is not environmentally desirable and, hopefully, the quantity would be nil or negligible.

It is estimated that nearly 50 per cent of plastic usage is for single use or disposable products-plastic bags, plates, throw away cutlery, bottles. This presents the opportunity to reduce usage substantially, within a very short time, by switching to substitutes and repeatedly usable cotton or jute bags. Recycling would be important for plastic waste management for quite some time to come and therefore, it is necessary that policies are conducive to sustain the operation of these units.  They are allies in the fight against plastic and not intruders.

There are plenty of biodegradable and non-petroleum-based plastic alternatives, but many do not provide the lightweight, durability, or convenience of plastics.  But, there is one product that seems to be on the rise as a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to plastic. Bamboo fiber Composites are a result of mixing bamboo fiber into a polymer matrix, resins, or glue, resulting in a lightweight, biodegradable plastic alternative. The new processes used in the manufacturing of bamboo fiber composite materials recently became more eco-friendly and organic too. The new processing methods are done completely mechanically, rather than with harsh chemicals.

Plastic bags play a negative role in chocking the drainage system. Reuse old polythene bags. Make sure you do not burn polythene bags as they cause a lot of pollution. With so many options, finding the right alternative for plastic carry bags is a tricky matter and only large scale awareness at the grass root level can ensure that another hazardous material does not substitute plastic.

Though the paper is the first option, it cannot be counted as an environment-friendly option considering the large scale destruction of trees for paper pulp and also because they cannot hold much weight. Though recycled paper bags have become a trend, common people may not find them pocket-friendly. Up-cycled paper bags using newspapers may be used for purposes other than packaging liquid and semi-liquid products.

The third option is biodegradable plastic that comes in several varieties. There are starch-based bioplastics that are soluble in hot water. There is also compostable plastic that disintegrates and joins the soil within 90 to 180 days. Plastic bags, thermocol, disposable cups and plates, cutlery, non-woven polypropylene bags, plastic pouches, and packaging are all banned.

While resorting to recycling and usage of waste to its extinction, the problem of the already accumulated landfill and dumps must be resolved. Experts have suggested gasification as an effective way of converting waste into energy. Such possibilities should be explored to our advantage.

The goal, within the next 12 months, should be to attain total control on plastic disposal, create a much cleaner environment and release the capacity of clogged sewerage and stormwater drains before the onset of monsoon season. It is in our larger interest to participate pro-actively in this movement and watch its progress if the government would public the relative progress in their monthly reports and monitor progress in the best way possible.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)
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