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Plastic Is Not The Issue; It Is Us

Context:

For more than a century, plastic, a highly adaptable polymer, has played a crucial role in our daily lives.But the widespread use of plastic has seriously harmed the environment.

When plastic waste is disposed of improperly, it pollutes the air, water, and land, having negative long-term effects.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Economic Development, Biodiversity, and Environment

Mains Question

“We are the problem, not plastic,” Examine the claim in light of the effects plastic has on the environment and the demand for responsible plastic use and recycling. (250 Words).


Highlights

  • About 24% of the plastic produced in India, according to the Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering & Technology (CIPET), is produced by the packaging industry.
  • While India recycles about 13% of its plastic waste, the global recycling rate for plastic is only 9%, and it is only 4% in the US.Lack of proper plastic waste segregation at the local community level is one of the main causes of the low recycling rate.Plastic segregation at the household level has largely failed in the past despite numerous attempts.

Are You Aware?

  • Plastic is a man-made substance made from a variety of organic polymers that, when heated or melted, can be moulded into a variety of shapes and forms.While some plastics are also made from renewable resources like cornflour or sugarcane, these polymers are typically derived from petroleum.
  • Because of their dependability, adaptability, and affordability, plastics are frequently used in a wide range of industries, including packaging, construction, electronics, and transportation.Polyhydroxyalkanoates are one common biodegradable plastic. (PHAs).

Why is plastic becoming a problem in modern society?

  • Persistence: o A large portion of all plastic ever produced still exists in some form today. Plastic can last in the environment for hundreds of years.
  • This means that the problems caused by plastic will persist even if we stop making new plastic and release it into the environment.
  • Single-use items: o Many plastic products, like straws, utensils, and packaging, are made to only be used once before being thrown away.
    • As a result, there has been a significant rise in the amount of plastic waste, which frequently contaminates landfills, oceans, and other natural areas.
  • Inadequate waste management: In many parts of the world, it is difficult to access or use proper waste management techniques, such as recycling and proper disposal, which results in the environmental disposal of plastic waste.
  • Microplastics: o As plastic fragments get smaller and smaller, they can become microplastics, which can harm ecosystems and wildlife by getting into the food chain.
  • Impact on the environment: Plastic pollution can harm ecosystems, harm wildlife, and exacerbate climate change.

Steps to Reduce the Plastic Threat

  • Reduce Plastic Consumption:
    • Reducing our consumption of plastic is the most effective way to stop the plastic threat.
    • We can start by switching to reusable alternatives in place of single-use plastics like straws, bags, and disposable cutlery.
  • Recycle plastic and properly dispose of it: Proper waste management is essential for lowering plastic pollution.
    • When possible, we should recycle plastic materials and properly dispose of them in recycling bins or facilities.
  • Encourage legislation:
    • By putting policies and regulations in place to reduce plastic production and use, as well as to encourage recycling and sustainable alternatives, governments can significantly reduce plastic pollution.
  • Promote eco-friendly alternatives: o We can encourage businesses to use sustainable resources and methods, and whenever possible, we can select eco-friendly goods.
  • Raise awareness: Making people more aware of the issue of plastic pollution and its effects on the environment can help them make more thoughtful decisions about their consumption of plastic and waste disposal techniques.
  • Environmental cleanups:
    • By planning and taking part in environmental cleanups in our neighborhoods, parks, and beaches, we can lessen the amount of plastic waste that makes its way into the environment.

The Government Has Taken a Number of Steps

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016): The Indian government has put in place extensive regulations for the management of plastic waste. These regulations include actions like forbidding the use of plastic bags thinner than 50 microns, encouraging the use of compostable plastics, and requiring the establishment of plastic waste management systems.
  • Single-use plastics are prohibited in a number of Indian states. Examples include plastic bags, straws, and cutlery.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan: The Clean India Mission, also known as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, is a nationwide initiative that the Indian government launched to encourage sanitation, hygiene, and cleanliness. The government has emphasised reducing plastic waste and promoting appropriate waste management practises as part of the campaign.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): The Indian government has made it mandatory for importers and manufacturers of plastic to comply with EPR, which means they are in charge of gathering and removing the plastic waste produced by their products.
  • Plastic Waste-Free Villages: The Indian government has started the Plastic Waste-Free Village initiative with the goal of encouraging sustainable waste management methods and lowering plastic waste in rural areas.
  • Promotion of alternatives: Through a number of campaigns and initiatives, the Indian government has been encouraging the use of eco-friendly alternatives to plastic, such as cloth bags, jute bags, and paper bags.

Conclusion

The damage is caused by how we use and discard plastic, not plastic itself.We can significantly contribute to a sustainable and cleaner future by adopting a circular economy model and raising consumer, manufacturer, and community awareness and participation.


February 2024
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