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Is there a way to respond to the plastics pandemic?

December 22, 2022 / 05:41 PM IST

There is one manufactured material that you can find in the earth, the air, and in the deepest ocean trenches. It is so durable that most of what has been created is still in our ecosystems. It is, of course, plastic — tough, flexible, durable, impervious to corrosion, yet endlessly versatile.

The conveniences plastics offer and that too at a low price have led to a throw-away culture. Today, single-use plastics account for 40 percent of the plastics produced yearly. Many of these products, such as plastic bags and food wrappers, small formats, and sachets, have a lifespan of mere minutes to hours. They often end up in dustbins if disposed of properly; otherwise, they languish for hundreds of years in our natural world.  High concentrations of plastic materials, particularly plastic bags, have blocked hundreds of different species' breathing passages and stomachs. Plastic bags in the ocean resemble jellyfish and are often ingested by turtles and dolphins who mistake them for food.

The global commitments against single-use plastics underline a general sentiment to act against plastic pollution. To tackle the plastic pollution problem, countries like India have already started implementing measures that address single-use plastic items and have introduced bans or charges. This is because no other plastic application represents the problem of plastic pollution as much as single-use plastics (SUPs) do, as they are the most common type of plastics produced and, at the same time, the most littered in the environment.

Plastic packaging – A growing menace