From the Viewsroom

The scourge of single-use plastic

Preeti Mehra | Updated on January 22, 2019 Published on January 22, 2019

Railways’ move to use earthen cups must be welcomed

A peek into the dustbin of an eatery, fast food outlet or mall is enough to tell you the story of single use plastic. Almost always filled to the brim with disposable spoons, stirrers, caps, plates, bottles and straws, these receptacles of trash are not only a sight for sore eyes but also present a major challenge for those disposing of waste. And what is scary is that as India hurtles down the road of ‘development’ the plastic waste that it generates is growing by the day.

It is a problem in which we are not alone. According to estimates, the worldwide plastic production in 2016 was around 335 million tonnes. Roughly half of it comprises single-use products. While we often hear about recycling plastics, the reality is that only nine per cent of the nine billion tonnes of plastic the world has ever produced has been recycled, according to a UN report. The bottom-line, therefore, is very clearly this: We have to say no to single use plastic and reduce our dependence on it.

In this context the Indian Railways’ move to introduce traditional earthen cups or ‘khulhars’ to serve tea on select routes must be welcomed. But this shift will only make a significant difference if it is extended to rail networks across the country. Also plates made from bio-degradable paper and areca leaves could replace the plastic or thermocol trays used to serve food today.

It is true that this would be a small step when you reckon that India generates about 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste a day, but with each innovation that reduces our dependency on synthetic material derived by processing petrochemicals, we will be making a difference. People must remember that before the 1950s the world managed well without the synthetic material. But by 2050 it is estimated that there will be around 12 billion tonnes of plastic litter in landfills and the environment.

Published on January 22, 2019
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