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About Plastic Overshoot Day

Context:

The Plastic Overshoot Day Report by Swiss-based research consultancy Earth Action (EA) sheds light on the alarming issue of plastic pollution and its implications on the environment.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Findings of the Report on Plastic Overshoot Day
  2. Major Significance of Plastic
  3. Issues Associated with Plastic Waste in India

Major Findings of the Report on Plastic Overshoot Day:

Plastic Overshoot Day is determined based on a country’s Mismanaged Waste Index (MWI). The gap in waste management capacity and plastic consumption is called MWI.

  • Severe Plastic Pollution Crisis: The report highlights an alarming situation, with an additional 68,642,999 tonnes of plastic waste expected to enter nature in 2023, indicating a severe plastic pollution crisis.
  • 12 Countries Responsible for Mismanaged Plastic Waste: The report identifies 12 countries, including India, responsible for 52% of the world’s mismanaged plastic waste. These countries are facing significant challenges in managing their plastic waste effectively.
  • High Mismanaged Waste Percentage in Africa: Three African countries, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Kenya, have the highest mismanaged waste percentages, with rates ranging from 98.9% to 99.8%.
  • India’s Rank in Mismanaged Waste: India ranks fourth in the Mismanaged Waste Index (MWI), with 98.55% of generated waste not being effectively managed.
  • Contribution of Short-life Plastics: Short-life plastics, such as plastic packaging and single-use plastics, constitute approximately 37% of the total plastic used annually. These types of plastics pose a higher risk of leakage into the environment.
  • Plastic Overshoot Day in India: Plastic Overshoot Day for India occurred on January 6, 2023, indicating that the country’s plastic waste generation surpassed its waste management capacity on that day.
  • Lower Per-Person Consumption in India: India’s per-person consumption of plastic is 5.3 kg, which is significantly lower than the global average of 20.9 kg. This suggests that the challenge lies in effective waste management rather than excessive consumption.

Major Significance of Plastic:

  • Food Packaging and Reduced Food Waste: Plastics are widely used in food packaging, helping to extend the shelf life of perishable goods, reducing food waste, and enabling efficient transportation of goods.
  • Advancements in Medicine: Plastics play a crucial role in modern medicine by being used in medical devices such as syringes, catheters, and artificial joints, which improve patient care and enhance the quality of life.
  • Automotive Applications and Environmental Impact: Plastics are utilized in automotive applications to make vehicles lighter, leading to improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, contributing to a greener environment.
  • Insulation for Energy Efficiency: Plastic materials are excellent insulators for electrical and thermal purposes, helping to improve energy efficiency in buildings and electronic devices.
  • Water Conservation and Distribution: Certain types of plastics used in pipes and irrigation systems help conserve water by reducing leakages and improving water distribution efficiency.

Issues Associated with Plastic Waste in India:

  • Inadequate Waste Management Infrastructure: The lack of proper facilities for segregation, collection, transportation, and recycling of plastic waste in many municipal authorities leads to improper disposal and pollution.
  • Landfill and Dumpsite Pollution: Due to insufficient waste management, a significant portion of plastic waste ends up in landfills, open dumpsites, or littered in the environment, causing severe pollution.
  • Low Recycling Rate: India recycles only 12.3% of its plastic waste and incinerates 20%, indicating a low recycling rate and a need for improved recycling practices.
  • Single-Use Plastic Products: The widespread use of single-use plastic items like bags, bottles, straws, and packaging contributes significantly to the accumulation of plastic waste, as these products are discarded after one use.
  • Coastal Pollution: India’s coastal areas are affected by plastic waste, with rivers and water bodies acting as conduits for plastic waste to reach the oceans, causing marine pollution and harming marine life and ecosystems.
  • Health Impacts: Improper disposal and burning of plastic can release harmful chemicals and toxins, leading to adverse health effects for communities living near waste disposal sites or involved in informal recycling activities.

-Source: Down To Earth


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