This year the World Environment day was celebrated with the theme ‘’Beat the Plastic Pollution’’-The pollution about which we have been less concerned, so far. Regarding the theme of WED, it is indicative of consciousness of Environmental Crusaders, because Plastic poses a serious threat to our planet. This beautiful Blue Marble- Earth (as it appears from outer space, because of oceans) is slowly losing its sheen, for its oceans have changed into dump-site of plastic and other similar materials. Not only oceans, land on this planet also faces the same problem. Each year globally more than 35 million tons of plastic pollutants are produced and about a quarter of that ends up in water. We dispose plastic material away from our homes and think we perhaps are safe, but forget that the plastic material around us in our environment again is havoc creating. Also, we never give thought that this land and water are the habitats of many other creatures, which may be suffering from our insensible approach.
Yes, Scientists have found that around one lac marine creatures die because of this menace. Many of these creatures get entangled in plastic products and end up drowning or suffocating. They sometimes fail to untangle themselves, thus die from starvation or from their inability to evade predators. Some aquatic creatures’ mistake plastic products as their prey, consume plastic and get adversely affected. Not only animals, even aquatic aves have been found to suffer from plastic pollution. Studies show that gulls (aquatic bird) in the North Sea had an average of thirty pieces of plastic in their stomach. These birds also mistake trash floating on the ocean’s surface as food and ingest it. With the result, bird’s gut is either physically damaged or obstructed leading to digestive inability, malnutrition, starvation, and ultimately death. Its negative impact is seen indirectly on Humans also. In oceans, plastics degrade typically but not entirely. In this process number of chemicals like; Bisphenol and polystyrene are released, which find a way into marine life and finally into humans. Being toxic these substances interferes with normal functioning of the body.
Plastic pollution has a direct influence on the humans worst. The chemical additives used during plastic production make plastic potentially harmful. Sometimes it may prove to be carcinogenic or promote endocrine disruption. Besides affecting gene expression related to thyroid hormones, Biphenols disrupt the normal physiological level of sex hormones- androgens and oestrogens – responsible for manliness and femininity in humans respectively.
Plastic pollution affects the land fertility as well. Since most of the plastic products are non-biodegradable in nature, thus accumulate in the soil, reducing its fertility and hinder the growth of plants. Even biodegradable plastics have a disadvantage, they are not easily degraded and in the process of decomposition, there is the emission of a gas, namely Methane which contributes to the global warming- Another environmental issue. Moreover, chemicals from plastic materials permeate into the surrounding soil, which then seeps into groundwater and other surrounding water sources, thus causing harm to species that use the water.
There are many other hazards of plastic pollution, which because of space constraint cannot be mentioned here, but exist as a challenge for entire living creation. However, it is the unembellished and the unaltered truth that humans are wholly and solely responsible for it. Being advanced and superior to others, we have an important part to play in the environment. We have the capability to control the things, unlike other living beings. We can protect not only ourselves but also other creatures. All that we need is to end the insensitive and cruel disregard for the environment, each other, and for other beings. Need of the hour is to be concerned about our environment and ecosystem, because ‘We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment’. We are because of the environment and reverse is not true. So, we have to take personal responsibility and do our bit sincerely. There are many ways to reduce plastic pollution;-
Refraining from use of throwaway packaging:- Unfortunately, we consume billions of bottles, coffee cups, street food wrapping as well as disposable plates and cutlery which accounts for half of the litter. These disposable items are generally used for a few minutes, but these items remain in the environment for centuries. Thus, we need to ponder that for a few minutes why we would devastate our habitat.
Use of reusable bags:- Millions of single-use plastic bags are used every minute globally and single plastic bag takes a thousand years to degrade. Therefore, it is important to replace them with reusable bags. Some countries have banned the use of plastic bags. If our state has no such plan, we at our own level can set a precedent by using reusable bags like our elders used to.
Avoid use of plastic bottles:- Cutting down on plastic bottles is one more method to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution. Nowadays, most of the eatables, even medicinal syrups are packed in plastic bottles. These bottles end up in landfills, being incinerated, or making way into our oceans thus adding to this problem. If plastic pollution has to be controlled, there is no option to use reusable bottles instead of disposable ones.
Participate in a river clean-up:- Besides awareness campaigns, some people never change and continue to be merciless. Resultantly, we found mounds of waste on the banks of streams and rivers. Some rivers have changed into swamps. It is the responsibility of every responsible individual to pitch in to help fix it up by participating in river cleanup activities.
Government policy:- The support of government is imperative for any program to operate. Additionally, plastic pollution being a serious environmental issue needs the attention of Government. In 2006, The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had imposed a ban on the entry, use, and sale of polythene bags to sensitive areas and banned all kinds of polythene bags in the state under the J&K Non-Biodegradable Material (Management, Handling and Disposal) Act, 2007 on June 18, 2008. In March 2017, the State Government nonetheless permitted production; sale and use of polythene carry bags above 50 microns in thickness to allegedly benefit polythene manufacturers and importers. But, it gladdened the heart, that Jammu and Kashmir High court has again ordered a blanket ban of polythene use on April 4 this year. It has stressed state government to take adequate measures to ensure enforcement of the ban. We hope this time Government would not favour dealers, manufacturers at the cost of environment. Government should provide them alternatives rather than allowing this problem to rise perpetually. Moreover, the public needs to support the ban and must take it as a crucial step towards pollution free environment. Besides these methods, there are several ways that can be adopted to curb this problem, but what matters most is that we take pains to ensure the protection of the environment.
(The writer can be reached at: [email protected])