Environmental Protection is the pervasive and indispensable issue that needs to be tackled with utmost attention and due diligence. The environmentalists have claimed that plastic pollution and climate change are considerable issues that living organisms are facing in their contemporary life. Plastic cataclysm and climate change are not only deteriorating our environment but also putting a perilous threat to the life forms on Earth. Paradoxically, the Sustainable Development Goals (2030) are primarily focussed on the conservation of the environment. This article will provide the gist of plastic pollution by providing the cause & effects of plastic pollution, advantages & disadvantages of banning single use plastic, effective solutions, aftermath effects of precluding the plastic use in Kenya and roadmap of success of banning single-use plastic in Rwanda. It will also accentuate the quintessence of climate justice by providing the cause & effects of climate change and way to achieve climate justice.
The Era of Plastic Revolution
With the advent of industrialization, the degree of land, air and water pollution has risen. Apart from them, the industrial revolution has also majorly contributed to the outburst of plastic pollution. The disposal of plastic (by taking into consideration the plastic pollution in the oceans, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle and clogged sewages) has become an area of high-profile concern. The chief causes of plastic pollution are population growth, urbanization, industrialization, reckless disposal and slow decomposition rate. Since the early 1950, an estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced out of which only 9% of the plastic waste has been recycled, 12% has been incinerated and the remnant 79% has been accumulated in the natural environment. The researchers have estimated that the production of plastic is expected to be double by 2050. Indeed, plastic is a magical invention which has made our day-to-day much facile, but it is now contemplated as our planet’s biggest environmental challenge. The excessive usage of plastic has resulted in land, air & water pollution, obstructed the food chain, been responsible for the climate change, adversely affected plants, animals and human beings. The benefits derived from the plastic can not been denied, also the environment challenges posed by plastic cannot be overlooked. Hence, it becomes imperative to judiciously implement effective schemes that will slide up the benefits over the problems. Recently the government came up with an initiative to ban the single use plastic, the effects of which are listed below:
The Plastic Free Challenge- Boon or Bane?
Pros of banning single use plastic:
Indeed, the single-use plastic or disposable plastics are ubiquitous, easy-to-use, durable and cheap, but they are used only once before they are trashed or recycled and hence, their accumulation and disposal has raised various environmental issues. They are a blight on the environment. Pragmatically, there are availability of better alternatives to the single use plastic, if we choose to use them. Banning of single use plastic will boost the economy, prevent environmental degradation, reduce the cost of goods, reduce littering, improve marine life, prevent drainage, reduce the need of petroleum, decrease the breeding ground for the mosquitoes and save the clean-up costs.
Cons of banning single use plastic:
The downside of banning single use plastic may result in unintended upshots that can have undesired side effects. Earlier plastic bags were introduced to address the issue of deforestation. Ever since then, plastic has become the material of necessity because of its safety, durability, convenience and cost-effectiveness. For example, single use plastic products are crucial in healthcare sector in order to prevent the spread of infection and it also act as a catalyst in food and water preservation. It is not savvy to completely put a ban on the plastic until there are better alternatives available. The Brand Pledges came up with the novel idea to address this challenge by inculcating more profitable ways to recycle their plastic use. The single use plastic must not be fully banned but efforts must be taken to regulate its production and use. Virtually, the production of plastic bags is eco-friendlier than the fabric shopping bags, plastic bags reduce food safety risks, the ban raises the risk of widespread unemployment & lay-offs in the plastic industry and would ultimately result in economic slowdown.
Beat Plastic Pollution
Mahatma Gandhi has aptly said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Environmental protection is not the sole obligation of the government, NGOs, corporations or environmentalists but the soul responsibility of every individual. Instead of criticizing or arguing over what is right or wrong(?)- we need to start changing our daily habits by getting our own shopping bags to the marts, pressuring the retailers to use non-plastic packaging, avoid the use of plastic cutlery & straws, carry a refillable water bottle, pick up the plastic & trash it wisely and make an effort to spread public awareness.
Repercussions of Plastic Ban
The draconian ban in Kenya in 2017 has resulted in significant knock-on effects on the consumers, manufacturers and retailers. Although the ban was successfully able to tackle the environmental impacts, but it exacerbated others. The ban faced a sequence of rocky challenges as it induced the formation of “bag cartels” that smuggled illicit plastic bags from neighbouring countries, there was lack of affordable environment friendly alternatives and the ban raised hygiene & food loss concerns. Whereas, Rwanda has set up a good exemplar for the other nations. It became an environmental pioneer in proscribing single-use plastic amongst the developing countries. Despite of financial constraints, it has now transformed to one of the cleanest places on the planet.
Plastic pollution, the root cause for climate change
According to the reports, the upsurge of single use plastic around the globe has accelerated the climate change. The plastic contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases at every stage of its lifecycle: from its nascent stage of production to its refining, until its disposal stage. As per the report of the Centre of International Environmental Law, the plastic industry is the fastest growing fount of industrial greenhouse gas emissions and 99% of what goes into the plastic is derived from fossil fuels.
Plastic not only trashes the ocean, harms flora or fauna but also ends up in our food and affects human health appallingly. Everything has become so plastic-oriented, hence, it’s a high time for us to minimise the use of plastic in order to limit the carbon emissions from it. For sustainable development, our inundate modern culture needs to ditch the ongoing plastic addiction.
In order to attain climate justice, we must implement the polluters pay principle in stringent practice, immediately proscribe the production and use of disposable/ single- use plastic, foster zero-waste communities and demand the corporations to actively participate in ending plastic pollution.
India lacks an organized structure for the proper management of plastic waste which leads to its widespread littering. In order to phase out all single use plastic, the Indian government must formulate effective measures and regulations and must ensure to have affordable alternatives for the disposable plastics that can be practically put upon the use. We as a citizen have a fundamental duty to keep our environment clean and safe not only for ourselves but also for our future generations. Therefore, for tackling the problem of plastic pollution, we must reduce, reuse, refuse, recycle, remove, rally for the single-use plastics. Taking into consideration the significance of the use of plastic in the medical sector and other relevant industries, the use of plastic must not be prevented but must be regulated.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed”- Mahatma Gandhi
- Author’s Details-
- Name: Riya Gulati
- Designation: Paralegal at Law Offices of Caro Kinsella & Youth Ambassador for the ONE Campaign, Ireland.
- Qualifications: LL.M (Intellectual Property & Information Technology) from University College Dublin & BA.LLB from Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune.
Also Read – Environmental Pollution: An Issue of Concern