“We need to learn from Sweden, which is a zero waste country. We need to learn from countries like Sri Lanka, which is segregating its waste, or Bhutan where everybody is conscious to not pollute their land.”
-Swati Singh Sambyal, Sustainable industrialisation, Centre for Science and Environment.
Four years have passed since the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation imposed a ban on the use of polythene in the city in 2012. Several awareness campaigns were also held to educate people regarding the perils of plastic waste. But nothing seems to have worked.
From food stalls and vegetable vendors on the street to air-conditioned shopping malls, the predominant use of polythene carry-bags speaks of BMC’s epic fail in implementing the ban. As the city continues to use polythene bags every now and again, the plastic waste in the dumping yards reaches a new high every single day.
But is BMC the only one to be blamed! Let’s think about it.
Have we ever stopped anyone using a polythene bag? Have we ever questioned a shopkeeper why they are still using it despite the ban? Have we stopped ourselves in the first place? Have we not asked for it, every time we buy a pouch of milk?
To be honest, we cannot blame it entirely on the officials while we shrug off our own responsibility. The city means us, the citizens. For decades, not just for last four years, we have been adding plastic waste to the city’s dumping yard day after day.
We always seek convenience; probably this is where it begins. We demand polythene bags for every tiny purchase we make and dispose them off in the garbage bin. Eventually the discarded polythene makes their way to the city’s dumping yard, where it can remain for life. Plastic materials are non-organic and are non-biodegradable.
This massive pile up of plastic garbage assaults the environment. But even though we realize it, we’re still at peace with the mounting trash. By doing this we are not only disregarding the existing environmental issues but also ignoring the potential health risks associated with this.
Plastic is laced in several poisonous ingredients that cause health hazards. Bisphenol-A and phthalate leak out of plastic and get into the liquid or food items that it touches. These chemicals cause various problems- mainly cancer and birth defects.
With these facts in mind, we should question our ignorance we have been carrying forward for years.
The city of Bhubaneswar generates around 15 tons of plastic waste every day. And when it comes to our waste management mechanism, little is the way.
So, now it’s up on us. There is an urgent need of plastic waste control in our city and it requires active, enthused participation from all of us.
Researchers and environmentalists suggest three R’s of waste management- Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Let begin with the first R- Reduce. We need to cut down on the amount of plastic/polythene waste we dump. It’s not something impossible. It might cause inconvenience in the beginning. But we have to remember this is for a good cause.
How to Reduce the Amount of Plastic Waste?
Here is something we can do to change our habits in order to reduce our plastic footprints.
Take your Own Shopping Bag
Although small outlets won’t charge a penny, there are many shopping malls in the city that charge an extra amount Rs.5 or 7 for a carry bag. Whatever be the case, we would do everything to keep away from polythene bags. You can buy jute bags of different sizes and carry them while shopping. Sounds old school! Don’t forget that you are way ahead of 95% of people in the city.
Carry Your Own Water Bottle and Avoid Disposable Plastic Glass and Pouched Water
Buying a new bottle or pouched water wherever you go is pretty much convenient than carrying your own water bottle. But in the long run such convenience comes at the cost of your health. As a solution, get a stainless steel water bottle and carry it with you.
Avoid Disposable Plates While Eating Street Food
Take the example of the dahi vada vendors in our city. Earlier on they used to serve in leaf-bowls, called ‘danaa’ in odiya. Later on they started using disposable thermocol bowls. Although the vendors keep both, we mostly prefer the latter, which is made up of thermocol, obtained from a particular type of plastic and is non-biodegradable. We need to avoid taking food in these.
Say No to Straws
Straws are used only once. Once you’ve used them, they are straight to the garbage bin. When its utility is so limited, why not carry your own straw, why add to the plastic waste lying on the city’s dumping yard.
Take a Tiffin box for Take Away
Buying snacks like ‘baraa’ or ‘singada’ for family, don’t get it packed in a polythene bag for you. Instead take a tiffin box or ask for a paper bag (Thunga).
Buy Groceries in Bulk
When you buy in bulk, you don’t have to go to the shop again and again for the same item. It reduces the number of polythene bags involved in every purchase.
All these years, we have made plastic and polythene bags our way of life. That’s true. Also, the plastics in the form of TV remote controller to toothbrush will always surround us. Important is, our life style with regards to the use of plastic or polythene must not hamper the environment or our health.
Say no to plastic. Say no to polythene bags.