Plastic and ban on its usage have been one of the most controversial issues of modern times. Every now and then there is a protest or petition against the usage of plastics in some part of the world. It is true that plastics are polluting our environment and are creating a ruckus of the biodiversity. But, is plastic really a threat to our society by itself and is banning the only solution? Or do we need to change our outlook towards plastic, its usage and wastage for more efficient management of the material?
We have to understand that the evil which has been associated with plastics is not because of them being in the market, it is because of the way they are being used! Even the theme of the World Environment Day 2018 “Beat Plastic Pollution” conveys the message to tackle the pollution and disposal management rather than just simply banning it.
A short overview
If facts are to be believed, we produce more than 300 million tons of plastic waste all around the globe every year. Out of this, only 10% percent of the entire waste is recycled. The remaining amount of plastic waste is left untreated. However, the point to be noted here is plastics is a fascinating material which can be used again and again over the period of time and it is the human population that is using it irresponsibly over the years.
Why should plastics not be banned?
Plastic industry is one of the largest industries all around the world and contributes a major share to global trade and economy. It is a magnificent material created by the mankind. Unlike its alternatives, plastic bags and containers can be used in various versatile ways and can be used again and again thus providing a very effective alternative to paper and jute bags.
Moreover, banning plastics will only have adverse impacts in the natural resources since a ban on plastics will only force the population to move towards any other source like paper bags for their needs which will ultimately end up in depleting other natural resources. Instead, we should change to eco-friendly plastics which are biodegradable in nature and still serves to all the fields catered by single-use plastics.
Apart from this, the lives of millions of people will be impacted as a result of a ban on plastics. The employment of millions of people involved in the plastic manufacturing industry will be in jeopardy and they will be forced to live on the streets.
A classic example of government considering the employment as an influential factor in banning the plastics was seen in Australia when they introduced a bill that focused on reducing the use of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastics rather than completely banning it because of the impact it would have had on the employment.
Plastic alternatives are not exactly better!
Many say that plastics are destroying the biodiversity and we should move to other alternatives like paper, jute and cotton bags and others. But has anyone ever thought if shifting to such sources is viable enough or not?
According to a research by US Environmental Protection Agency, paper bags are much more harmful to the environment. It generates 70% more air pollutants and 50% more water pollutants to the environment since it consumes more than four times of energy to be produced. Recycling of paper bags also takes up more than 85% of more energy than that of plastic bags.
Coming to landfills, paper bags take as much as 9 times more space than plastics and still decompose at the same rate. Moreover, plastic bags have a lower carbon footprint than its alternatives. In a study done by the Chemistry Professor of the University of Oregon, he concluded that plastic bags have only half of the carbon footprint when compared to cotton and paper bags. They use fewer chemicals and resources and produce less greenhouse gas when manufactured and pushed in utilities.
Banning plastic and its products just because they decompose at a very slow rate does make sense but is definitely not a viable option when the material possesses more pros than cons. However, it is true that plastics have created pollution and has deteriorated natural resources. But at the same time, we have to understand that it is because of the human acts that plastic has turned into a curse despite being a magnificent creation.
Governments across the globe should work towards educating the people to use plastic and its products carefully and in an organized manner. A more organized way of waste collection and management should be taught and integrated into the system. Furthermore, more focus should be shifted on the removal of plastic wastes through various methods like recycling and reusing across the geographical locations in order to minimize the damage that has already been done because of irresponsible and careless use of plastics by the people.
Many governments across the globe are already practicing such practices like many European countries have incentivized the waste collection processes and are rewarding the people to encourage more active participation as well as creating proper infrastructures for waste disposal.
To encourage people to recycle Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles, the Gujarat government will soon set up around 20,000 to 25,0000 recycling machines across the state, which will pay for every bottle that is recycled. Making the announcement at a function held to celebrate World Environment Day at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said this will give incentives to both rag pickers as well as common man to recycle PET bottles, which is one of the biggest sources of plastic waste generation. “Not all plastic PET bottles get recycled. Only those that the rag pickers pick get recycled. We want to incentivize the common man to recycle and the recycling machines is a step in this direction,” said Rupani. (Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/report-now-gujarat-govt-to-pay-for-every-pet-bottle-you-recycle-2622534)
Spiritual leader and founder of Isha Foundation Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev explains how plastic can be a boon for humankind if used properly. Many creative inventions which focus on plastic waste disposal like building a road out of plastic waste or using plastic waste to generate electricity must also be given an eye in order to achieve the collective goal of removing plastic pollution.
Plastic is a wonderful and magnificent material that can serve a lot of human needs. It needs to be treated in the same manner and more and more awareness should be created for it. We should remember that many lives are dependent on the plastic industry as well as the economies also depend on the same.
Authored by Faber Jalay Pandya
Jalay Pandya is one of the founding members and Director of Faber Infinite Consulting, with operations in Asia Pacific, Africa & Middle East. He holds a masters degree in Marketing Management with his 1st degree being in Plastic & Ploymers Engineering.
Co-Authored by Faber Kishaly Krishna