Children's Role in Curbing Plastic Pollution : A School Student's Exposition
| IOP Desk - 22 Nov 2021

Indian Government Decision on  Combating Plastic Pollution:

Children’s Role and Importance


By Laasya Padmaraju


November 22, 2021

The entire world is facing the big challenge of combating with plastic pollution crisis. Plastic waste is becoming a universal problem, which is a big challenge to the world to control, to protect humans, animals, and the entire environment as well across the world. Plastic is everywhere nowadays, which is detrimental to the health of human beings, animals, and the environment. Plastic is present in every square meter of the Earth where we live in. Everybody uses plastic extensively in their day-to-day life but does not realize that it harms our earth and human beings drastically. Though plastic pollution is harmful to everyone, people are using plastic colossally due to their ignorance, lack of awareness, and lethargic attitude for various reasons. It requires serious attention to control, regulate and ban the production of single- use-plastic all over the world for the well-being of the people and the environment as well.


The Government Initiatives towards Plastic Ban


To protect the planet and to provide a congenial environment for the present and future generations, serious attention is needed on the way we produce and consume goods and services. In this stupendous endeavor, the consumers have to change their buying habits and their ability to change in supply chains systems. Consumers are already making changes in their    lifestyle  to be more sustainable – recycling and reducing foodwaste, avoiding unsustainable products, and so on, which can make a considerable impact all over the world.


The Government of India has firmly decided to combat plastic pollution across the country and announced the ban in August 2021 following its 2019 resolution in this regard. It’s in conjunction with India’s announcement at the UN Environment Assembly in 2019, where it was resolved for a phase-out of single-use plastics by 2025 across the world.The Indian Government decision on the ban of ‘single-use plastic’ items will come into force with effect from 1st July 2022, to make India a plastic-free country. Despite non-unanimity among various countries, India made a political decision to move ahead with the implementation.Further, the government has decided to increase the thickness of polythene bags from 50 microns to 120 micronsand will be implemented in two phases, from September 30th, 2021 onwards. The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene commodities will be prohibited with effect from July 1, 2022. It includes all 'single-use' plastic items with less than 100 microns.


Dimensions of Plastic Pollution


Plastic is non-biodegradable, to a great extent it stays on the face of the earth for more than a thousand years. By its nature, it won’t get dissolved for years together. Hence, excessive use of plastic means abnormal threats and harmfulness on the planet where we live. Because of these reasons, the use of plastic is up rising minute by minute damaging environmental health. If plastic consumption increases at its current rate, according to National Geographic, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills by 2050.


Now we are all encompassed by plastic materials across the world. We are using plastics, mostly single-used plastics, excessively in different forms to meet our day-to-day requirements. Most of the used plastics are dumped in the garbage without being burnt or recycled. Further, most of the things we usually use are made of plastics like furniture, food packaging, electronics, carry bags, rain sheets, and the like. These ubiquitous uses of plastics have led to extreme plastic pollution of our environment, which ultimately impacts human health badly. Indiscriminate use of plastics in many ways may affect and be detrimental to the health of human beings. We are consuming plastics by way of eating, drinking, and breathing micro plastics every day. These plastic products contain chemical additives and end up in the environment, which attracts more harmful bacteria, which may lead to affect human health, like hormone-related cancers, infertility, neuro-development disorders, risk of infections, and many more.


Impact on Earth and Oceans


Plastic pollution intimidates food quality, hygiene and safety, human health,coastal tourism, and bestowal to global warming. Plastic pollution is mangling severely not only the earth but also the oceans. Our oceans also face great threatsdue to the excessive use of plastic. By its nature the plastic is non-biodegradable; it gets thrown into the oceans alongwith other waste materials. Plastic also releases catastrophic chemicals into the sea-bed or soil surrounding it,which then spreads to great distances. All marine animals that drink this water are prone to many illnesses or in some cases lead to death. Some studies show that atleast 800 species worldwide are affected by marine debris, and as much as 80 percent of that litter is plastic. It was estimated that there were approximately 150 million tonnes of plastic pollution in the world's oceans, estimated to grow to 250 million tonnes by 2025.


One study estimated that there are more than 5 trillion plastic pieces afloat at sea. As the plastic floats around the ocean, fish, turtles, seabirds, and other marine animals either swallow or get entangled by plastic. This causes them to suffocate and starve, feeling helpless, finally leading to  death. Many marine animals unknowingly swallow plastic, which stays inside them forever. Another study reported in June 2019 that a dying pilot whale that had washed up on the shores of Thailand had consumed more than 80 plastic bags.The biggest example of this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, having the highest density of plastic and other debris. This patch is so large and widespread, with some weather conditions, it is visible from space. Not only aquatic animals, but even birds are susceptible to plastic ingestion are entanglement. In 2004, it was estimated that gulls in the NorthSea had on an average of thirty pieces of plastic in their stomachs.When there are large patches of plastic floating on the ocean’s surface, birds often mistake them as prey. Most of the time, the fish they eat also have plastic inside them, which is transferred to the birds and their predators as well.


Garbage patches are rapidly growing because of the widespread loss of plastic from human trash collection systems. It is estimated that approximately "100 million tons of plastic are generated each year", and about 10% of that plastic ends up in the oceans. Scientists concluded that corals that come into contact with plastic have an 89 percent chance of contracting disease, compared with a 4 percent likelihood for corals that do not. Unless action is taken soon to address this urgent problem, scientists predict that the weight of ocean plastics will exceed the combined weight of all of the fish in the seas by 2050.


Major Offenders in Plastic Pollution


As per the Minderoo Foundation (published by The Minderoo Foundation, WA (Western Australia) report of the Plastic Waste Makers Index, the 20 global companies are responsible for producing more than half the planet's single-use plastic waste. It analyzed about 1,000 factories and found that petrochemical firms are the worst offenders. ExxonMobil is the biggest single-use plastic waste contributor with 5.9 million tonnes generated in 2019, followed by Dow and Sinopec with over five million tonnes each.


According to this report, the single-use plastic waste generated by select countries per person (in Kgs) in 2019, Australia tops the list with 59 ranks followed by the united states (53), South Korea (44), UK (44), Japan (37), France (36), Spain (34), Germany (22), China (18) and India (4).The big companies are producing a huge amount of plastic leading to plastic pollution across the world. The world’s worst offenders for plastic pollution annually in metric tonnes of plastic packaging produced as of 2020, reported by Changing Markets Foundation, London, UK. The Coca-Cola tops the list with 2,900,000, followed by Pepsico (2,300,000), Nestle (1,700,000), Danone (820,000), P&G (714,000), Unilever (700,000), Colgate Palmolive (287,000) and Mars (184,000) (Source: Changing Markets Foundation, 2021).

For the last 50 years, plastic has reached mass production and also turned into an addiction for consumers the world over.


Challenges in Indian Context


The Times of India reported that India generates on an average 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste everyday and 9.46 million tonnes per year, of which about 40% remains uncollected causing choking of drainage and river systems, littering of the marine ecosystem. Further, it causes water and soil pollution, ingestion by stray animals, and open-air burning leading to adverse impacts on human health and the environment. These facts are stated in the Indian government’s latest missive to states and Uts on phasing out single-use plastic which is neither biodegradable nor recyclable. It is noted that nearly one-sixth of the total plastic waste is generated by 60 majorcities, of which Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Bengaluru together generate more than 50% of the total plastic waste from thesecities. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) surveyed the 60 main cities of India and stated that cities generate 4,059 tonnes of plastic waste per day.


Children’s Role in Curbing Plastic Pollution


Plastic pollution affects badly all human beings, animals, and the environment as well. Apart from all the efforts made by the governments, global and national service organizations, the students should take part actively in the global plastic control mission. The change should start from the young students and their parents by avoiding the use of plastic and inculcating the habit of putting the waste in the waste bins outside. For this, students should be getting educated, aware, full understanding about this menace and its impact on future generations. They start bringing awareness among their friends, family, people in their colony, and society nearby. It will go a long way to change the mindset of the people, understanding the need for environmental protection for the wellbeing of the people.


As they are the future generations of the country, their commitment, their practice to combat plastic pollution would yield fruitful results certainly. It’s the dire need and responsibility of the students to shape their environment, where they live. The students should avoid using single-useplastic for carrying food, eating plates, cups, carrying books, and the like. Every student should educate their friends, family, neighbors, and society as well. In this endeavor, the teachers should educate their students and make them practice avoiding the use of plastic and inculcating the habit of putting the waste only in the dust bins, and maintaining a hygienic environment. They are the change agents to change the face of the world provided they have the commitment, dedication, social responsibility, and build a pollution-free world. Let the children join together in the global mission of building a pollution-free environment.


The Measures Needed


While scientists are pursuing other innovative solutions to lower plastic pollution, the best way to end it completely is to cut off our usage. There are alternatives for plastic packagings, such as Bagasse, which is a by-product of sugarcane. It is eco-friendly and can easily be folded, which is suitable for delivery as well. The young students as the future generation of the world and as the stakeholders of the consequences must understand that if action is not taken, the world as we know it will surely cease to exist. They must come together and educate future generations about the harmful impact of plastic pollution and the devastating repercussions that it will bring. They have the ultimate power to change the world, and to save it, only if we use that power. United, anything is possible, whether It be good or bad. They can start by helping in small ways, like throwing waste in the dustbin, not littering, recycling materials, educating their parents, neighbors, friends, and society as well about the consequences of plastic pollution. Even the smallest changes can cause a huge impact in today’s society. People should not live not for us alone, but for the whole of  humanity, the living beings, and the environment as a whole.


Towards this end, a systematic action plan is inevitable globally by way of banning plastic carry bags, their usage; banning the plastic products which cannot be recycled, the incentive for the business of recycling, adopting new technology for converting  plastic waste into energy, and so on. It is the dire need of the day to resolve the crises of plastic pollution to diffuse the climate change and loss of biodiversity the world over. We must perceive this and help out in anyway possible. Making a Plastic pollution-free world is the only way to have sustainable world development.


Laasya Padmaraju is a school student at Samashti International School, Kollur, Hyderabad

Brief Profile : Laasya Padmaraju started her schooling at St. John's school, Southampton, UK. That's the place where she was initially introduced. Laasya is the chief editor of Sach and Soch, the monthly school magazine of Samashti. Her latest write-up got selected for publication in the anthology “A Head Full of Dreams” which was launched on Amazon in October 2021.


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