Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown the extraordinary political will to eradicate the menace of single-use plastic from the country by 2020. The birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 2019 will witness the complete ban of six single-use plastic items across the country. The Prime Minister is out to build a Plastic Mukt Bharat by 2022. This is another laudable effort by the Prime Minister to free India from the plastic menace.
Over the decades, single-use plastic has caused huge economic loss by damaging our agriculture land, food items, rivers, lakes, ponds, tourist places, pilgrim centres, the sea and the oceans. Plastic bags were one of the main reasons for death of about 1100 people in Mumbai on June 26, 2005 floods. It had choked the drains of Mumbai. According to CPCB estimate, from 2012, India has been generating nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic a day. Out of which over 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste remain deposited on roads, land and are thrown into water bodies. India’s per capita plastic consumption is 11 kg which is growing with every passing year. According to a study conducted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the plastic processing industry is estimated to grow to 22 million tonnes (MT) a year by 2020 from 13.4 MT in 2015 and nearly half of this is single-use plastic. Right from kirana shops to mega malls everywhere, plastic bags of different thicknesses and sizes are being sold to customers. The plastic water bottle market in India is expected to reach Rs 403.06 billion by the end of 2023 which will have a deep negative impact on human health, soil, water and air.
British and US researchers found harmful chemical Bisphenol, known as BPA in the urine samples of health volunteers in US and confirmed that BPA used in plastic leads to heart diseases. BPA also increases the risk of diabetes and liver diseases. The Food and Drug Administration admitted that plastic releases around fifty-five to sixty different chemicals when heated. When you heat food in a plastic container or serve it hot on a plastic plate, the process mixes various chemicals with your food. Eating such food creates a hormonal imbalance that can lead to health issues like PCOD, ovarian issues, breast cancers, colon cancer, prostate cancers, and many others. The Prime Minister has taken a timely step to ban plastic as he has a deep understanding of the health issue.
Over the years, plastic has replaced so many utility and decorative items in our homes and offices. Now, it is difficult to dump all the plastic in one go. Researchers found that a plastic bottle takes 400 years to decompose. But there are various ways to limit the use of plastic items. The Union Government has already advised all public sector offices to use bio-degradable utility items in the offices. A complete ban on the use of plastic items will help millions of women members of Self Help Groups that make various environment-friendly utility items from their homes.
India is a treasure trove of bio-degradable handicraft items that can easily replace a large number of plastic items in our homes. Clay pots made in Gujarat have become very popular in Hyderabad as the food cooked in clay pots gives an exotic taste and aroma. If people can buy clay and wooden utensil it could provide jobs to millions of artisans and potters who make those utility items. One entrepreneur of Assam has successfully marketed bamboo bottles which have a growing domestic and export demand. Bags made from coir, jute, clothes and paper can easily replace plastic bags. The use of jute and coir will trigger coconut and jute plantation in the country. Thousands of coconut trees in Kerala are abandoned due to poor labour management in the state and lack of market linkage. Farmers in Kendrapads district of Odisha left jute farming when the demand for jute trickled down. Malls, shops and restaurants can happily sell biodegradable jute and coir bags to customers instead of selling cheap plastic bags.
Countries that have banned single-use plastics
Single-use plastic waste is a global menace, with items such as straws, water bottles and bags accounting for over 40 percent of pollution. Here are some countries that have taken serious steps to curb plastic usage.
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- Antigua and Barbuda
- United States
- South Korea
Assam supplies thousands of tonnes of raw bamboos to Australia every year. The Australians make various utility items from the bamboo stump of 10-inch diametre. India can tap the growing biodegradable handicraft market world over. Creating awareness about the use of handicraft utility and decorative items will not only provide jobs to millions of people but earn huge foreign currency. While generating employment, it would restore people’s self-respect as people would feel they are able earn their bread without depending on the government’s subsidy. The government can rope in cinema stars and sports persons to popularise handicraft and handloom items.
India is a unique country where artisans and weavers can handcraft all kinds of daily use items with grace and artistry. Over the years, many of those utility and decorative items have become pure art form. The Union Government’s Skill India program is well designed to protect the age-old handicraft and weaving skills across the country. Handicraft and weaving skill pass from one generation of another and disappear when people look for cheap plastic items.
The charismatic Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already addressed India’s skill by launching Skill India programme. His well thought out plastic-free campaign will inspire people to use biodegradable handicraft items. For the first time, the nation is awakening to become a leader in producing biodegradable items. In fact, the entire world is striving for biodegradable items and wants a respite from global warming and frequent natural calamities of higher intensity. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, India can teach the entire
world how to save the planet by using environment-friendly items.
(The writer is Hyderabad-based columnist)