SHOULD PLASTIC BE TOTALLY BANNED?
Plastics are synthetic substances produced by chemical reactions. Almost all plastics are made from petroleum, except a few experimental resins derived from corn and other organic substances. Plastic has many properties which have made it a raw material of choice for manufacturing of plastic bags and packing materials. Cost of production, light weight, strength, easy process of manufacture, and availability are some of the properties. There is nothing wrong with plastic as a material. Man has simply not put the plastic to the right use/ or using it without taking proper care of other related norms of usage. Now a days plastic is our favorite shopping basket, for example, the packaging of milk delivered to our doorsteps everyday, the edible oil, salt atta in our daily life, mineral water, which is our travel component. Plastics have changed life styles & conveniences in home cutting across every strata of society - from refrigerators to mixers; from washing machines to water filters; from the ubiquitous bucket to thermo ware and have made life easier, better & happier for the housewife.
But the hazards plastics pose are numerous. The land gets littered by plastic bag garbage presenting an ugly and unhygienic seen. The "throw away culture" results in these bags finding their way in to the city drainage system, the resulting blockage causes inconvenience and difficulties in maintaining the drainage which has increased its cost and creates unhygienic environment resulting in health hazard and spreading of water borne diseases. This littering also reduces rate of rain water percolating, resulting in lowering of already low water levels in our cities. The soil fertility deteriorates as the plastic bags form part of manure remains in the soil for years.
It has been observed that the animals eating the bags sometimes die. Plastic goes into the ocean which is already a plastic infested body of water. Fish and other marine species in the water ways, misunderstanding plastic garbage as food items swallow them and die. "Should plastic carry bags and bottles be banned in totality?" - is a heated issue today. Average Indian uses one kilogram (kg) of plastic every year, the world annual average is a alarming 18 kg. "Plastic is an eco-friendly material. The real problem is littering", some claim. But there is hardly anybody who agrees with such viewpoint.
Thinking rationally, the whole idea of educating people about plastic bags, is as difficult as banning smoking The conventional older and tested alternatives offers an easy, if not fully equitable and practical solution.
More than a 100 million tonnes of plastic is produced world-wide each year. Though plastics have opened the way for a plethora of new inventions and devices it has also ended up clogging the drains and becoming a health hazard. Many countries, including India, are trying to increase the amount of plastic that is recycled. India imported 7,841.8 metric tonnes of plastic waste from the US in the first half of 1994. India is the fourth highest Asian importer of plastic waste behind Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia.
Environmental pollution caused by routinely used polythene packaging materials; it would be prudent, for the present, to use eco-friendly paper packaging. A ban on plastic bags (below 20 microns) has already been imposed by various states and also in a few towns and districts in India. It is going to extend this to other parts of the country also.
People on picnics, visiting historical places, hill stations etc., carry eatables in plastic containers, plastic bags, mineral water bottles (plastic), plastic plates and plastic cups and generally leave open in air after consuming the contents.
In recent times, due to widespread awareness drive by the NGOs , the government and to a lesser extent by educational institutions has resulted in increasing the consciousness among few shopkeepers who have shifted back to the old system of wrapping up goods in paper bags or newspapers. Some people are slowly getting habituated to going to the market with cloth bags. Besides a few NGOs, even school students have come forward to take up a promotion campaign for the use of paper or cloth bags.
It has also been suggested "Rather than spending money on anti-plastic campaign, the authorities should gear up its machinery for effective waste management and disposal of plastic".