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Dealing with Single-Use Plastic

Every year about 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced in World and in India 18.7 million tons of plastic were produced in 2018.

Which are the issues with single-use plastic?

1. About 50% of this plastic is single-use plastic (small bags, bottles, etc.) which is a major cause of concern for the world today as people are addicted to plastic.

2. It creates a blot on the landscape and produces unhygienic conditions.

3. It reduces soil fertility and causes a flood.

4. It impedes the water seepage into the soil which is required for drinking, agriculture, etc.

5. The water which should go into aquifers gets transformed into surface runoff creating problems of soil erosion, urban floods.

6. This causes loss to the environment and increases human suffering on a large scale.

7. Use of plastic in flexible packaging such as carry bags, earbuds, cigarette buds, etc. are harmful. These are not collected due to their low value in recycling.

8. So, they are burnt or put into landfills causing more harm through toxic gases.

Why plastic is important for the economy?

1. 43% single use plastic is being generated in India employing 13 lakh workers and generating Rs. 53,000 crores of revenues for companies.

2. But, curtailing single use plastic is possible without any economic deficit.

How issues of single-use plastics can be addressed?

Industrial Level:

1. Stimulating innovation for reducing, reusing, and recycle plastic creates a circular economy.

2. Re-engineering solutions for the packaging industry through bamboo, corn starch, biodegradable products instead of plastic can be helpful.

3. Responsible consumption and production of single use plastic.

4. Alternative livelihood for people employed in the plastic industry must be given.

5. Companies should look at both the cost of the product and its cost on the environment.

Technological Interventions:

1. Critical lifecycle analysis of plastic is needed in terms of its carbon footprint and other parameters as its role cannot be undermined in areas like medical sciences.

2. Bioplastics are also being used. PET bottles are being shredded into fine threads and being used in 3D printing.

3. Life cycle and value chain of plastic needs to be examined as plastic is a hydrocarbon, it can be produced by capturing the carbon dioxide and methane from the atmosphere rather than using petroleum for producing plastic.

4. Through pyrolysis plastic can be melted to form petrol, and the methane formed in the process can be used as energy for sustaining the systems because there is a limit to the number of times recycling.

Grassroots Level:

1. Improve the waste collection system in cities while extending producer responsibility.

2. Incentivize the collection of low-value plastic.

3. Long-chain polymers should be made easy to recycle.

4. Startups can leverage technologies to address the issue while taking care of the environment.

Consumer Level:

1. Spread awareness among people about the harmful effects of plastic.

2. Human behaviour need to be influenced to bring change in dealing with single-use plastics and encourage the use of alternatives such as jute or cloth bags.