Beat Plastic Pollution

beat plastic pollution: Beat plastic pollution: Will Chennai show the way?

While we turn to items made of plastic for convenience, we fail to see how mounting plastic waste has not only been filling landfills, but also clogging our sewer lines and choking our oceans. But now, with the government announcing a ban on use-and-throw plastic, effective January 1, 2019, will we make a difference and perhaps, lead the way in showing the rest of the country how to control plastic pollution? We spoke to Chennaiites, people from various walks of life, to know their concerns, and the challenges they think we might face as we try to switch to an eco-friendly way of life…

Effective implementation is the key

The Tamil Nadu Government announced the proposed plastic ban in the Assembly on World Environment Day. In 2002, while late J Jayalithaa was the Chief Minister, she announced a similar one but did not take it to the implementation level. Now, for this announcement to become a law, it has to be passed in the Assembly. However, the plastic ban is the need of the hour and if there is a law and strong will to implement the same, there’s no doubt that we will save our environment from degradation to a great extent. A rule alone will not suffice; There has to be effective implementation, too. Also, unless you stop the manufacturing, there is no way you can stop its use. If implemented properly this can definitely go a long way in reducinge environment pollution. Once there is no availability of use-and-throw plastic, both customers and shopkeepers will be forced to look for alternatives.

— R Govindaraj, advocate and president, Exnora Greater Chennai

Government should find a way to dispose of the existing plastic first

While doing my Masters in the USA, I observed that they use a lot more onetime-use plastic than we use it here, due to concerns. But unlike here, they are particular about waste segregation at the source itself. And then, several people are using containers made of reusable materials, such as aluminum foil, to pack food, bottles and tins to store oils and so on. I think when the ban comes into force; people might find it difficult in the initial days. When the rule is implemented, I may start planning my shopping and will carry bags with me. I remember carrying katta pai and going vegetable and grocery shopping with my mom, while I was in school. If there is strict enforcement, I’m sure people will shun plastic and return to cloth bags, plantain leaves and such biodegradable material. But before implementing the ban, the Government should also show a way as to how to get rid of the existing plastic at shops and households.

— Vijaya Priya, analytics consultant for a technology firm

We need a holistic approach towards manufacture, sale and use of plastic

I am elated at the announcement. This announcement has come at the right time and is a right step in the right direction. I was with Erik Solheim, Head, UN Environment, when this announcement was made public, he immediately congratulated the TN chief minister. Now, what we need is a holistic approach towards the ban of manufacture, sale and use of non-recyclable plastic. Initially, the Government should start a drive to collect the existing plastic and dispose it off. As the second step, they should encourage and empower the industries to come up with alternatives to plastic and as the final step, the ban should be implemented effectively. While many are making a huge cry out of job and revenue loss, we should realise that it’s nothing when compared to the long-term environment damage and health issues these plastic create. The manufacturers of one-time plastic should move on to make alternatives and with some tweaking of technology, they should be able to come up with alternatives at affordable rates. Since there is an existing customer base, once the ban is enforced in a full-fledged manner, people will naturally start using the alternatives and we will be saved to a great extent from the environmental hazard.

— K Abdul Ghani, Green Crusader

Getting rid of plastic is not impossible; all that is needed is the will

We are to blame ourselves for the current situation. This trend of using plastic bags for everything from food to groceries started some 20 years ago. I grew up in Thanjavur and at that time, every house had three types of cloth bags – for vegetables, groceries and for carrying heavy stuff. It used to be hung in a hanger and whoever was going out to buy things used to choose the one based on the size and proceed. Grocery items would be packed in used newspapers. Those days, instead of the raddiwalas, grocers used to come and buy old newspaper so that they could use it for packing. They used to tie the pack using sanal (rope made of jute). We used to store every item in steel containers and label them. With the advent of plastic containers, we forgot the harmful effects of plastic and allowed it into our kitchens. Earlier, milk and dalda were the only items that came in plastic covers but now everything, including flowers arrive in plastic bags. Many restaurants even steam idlis using plastic sheets. This needs to stop and only if each one of us takes the responsibility, we can change the situation. Though it may appear like a Herculean task, we can get rid of plastic. The government should come up with a separate body and watch out for those who violate the ban. Celebrities should endorse the ban so that their fans voluntarily come forward and stop using plastic. Big textile shops are very popular with homemakers – they should be the first ones to promote the use of cloth or jute bags. Getting rid of plastic is not impossible; all that is needed is the will.

— Lalitha Subramanian,

musician and homemaker

It’s difficult to replace plastic

“It will be very difficult for us to give up on plastic bags until and unless something really convincing and affordable is implemented. Going for banana leaves is not going to be convenient because the production of banana leaves is less, it will cost us more and they are not suitable for carrying things like we can carry with plastic bags. Plastic bags are cheaper in rate but if it is replaced with paper bags, it is again going to be a challenge. Paper bags are not waterproof and not strong enough to carry a large quantity of flowers like plastic bags. It’s again going to be a flop. Switching to cloth bags might work but it’s going to be expensive for us. We get flowers from Koyambedu every morning and it comes in plastic baskets and big plastic bags from neighboring districts and states. For transporting flowers in bulk, we might opt ​​for carton boxes but we are not sure how it is going to keep the flowers fresh and in good shape,” says Srinivasan.

— Srinivasan and Kannan have been selling flowers

for two decades in T Nagar

Packaging liquid food items are going to be a big challenge

We have already initiated the process of reducing the plastic use, and to start with, the take-away food items will be packed in fresh banana leaves and covered with aluminum foil or a thick paper. We are in the process of replacing the plastic carry bags with nonwoven bags. We are bringing thick paper boxes for packing sweets and we are working on introducing pulp plates, areca nut leaves plates, thick paper cups for coffee and packaging liquid items like gravies and soup. It is going to be a challenge to pack sambar, chutney and gravies as it’s not easy to pack them in leaves or paper wraps. The cost of the packaging material will definitely go up.

— R Saravanan, partner,

Hotel Saravana Bhavan

Carry shopping bag from home

I understand it is slightly difficult to eliminate plastic completely from my life today; my family has taken a few steps towards reducing it and refusing plastic. For over three years, we have been segregating waste at our home, the wet waste is made into compost and used for our garden to grow veggies. We use a handmade wire basket (koodai) or jute bag to buy grocery. Many a time if we go shopping on the way from work and miss having our regular bags, we buy minimally and refuse to use plastic carry bags. I buy only things that I can put under my two-wheeler seats. Every time we buy meat, we carry our own steel tiffin boxes or vessels. It is not too hard to follow these small things that can contribute to keeping our environment plastic-free for the next generation.

— Archana Stalin, myHarvest, a project that is

Helping city-dwellers to grow their own chemical-free green vegetables and fruits in their homes

Install leaf crusher machines to avoid bulk disposal

It is high time that all the major food brands gear up and start sourcing alternative packing and serving materials. We are advising all the food brands and restaurants to adhere to government norms envisaged for plastic usage. We have recommended the usage of banana leaves and also installation of leaf crusher machines to reduce waste disposal issues. Biodegradable flasks have been identified for take away coffee. The challenge we are going to face is to pack liquid items and gravies; The cost of materials will

go up.

— Charles Vasantha Kumar, MD, Grace Services

Let the industry find the alternative

It’s not enough if you go to the assembly and make the announcement. They also have to effect mechanisms and make them a reality on the ground. Our PM has said that by 2022, we will definitely wipe out single-use plastic. But when the Solid Waste Management rule of 2016 came about, the idea was that within a year’s time, they would put in all these monitoring regulations in place. So, every state and every urban local body was supposed to follow that – but we’ve delayed it by two years already. So, while I am happy about this announcement, I am very sceptical. I think the government should be burdened with the question of alternate option for plastic and they should take it up with the industry that has the money to invest in research and development to find the alternative for this. Just like how the soft drink brands went from glass to plastic bottles, they can find alternatives to plastic, too. They branded it as convenience for the customers, but it absolved them of the responsibility of collecting-back system. So, it’s definitely the responsibility of the industry to find the alternative to plastic.

— Kripa Ramachandran from Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button