The existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a staggering instance of the extent of plastic abuse.
Imagine yourself sailing in a ship across the Pacific Ocean. After witnessing the sangfroid blue ocean, rich marine fauna, your ship will come to an expanse - literally spread hundreds of nautical miles filled with floating plastic garbage. Folks, I am not making this up. The Great pacific garbage patch exists and it happens because of debris getting jammed due to the currents of the North pacific Gyre.
Closer home, the famed sea front near Gateway of India in Mumbai is at times dotted with black and white polythene bags. Another common sight in urban landscape are the heaps of plastic material (be it CDs, polythene bags, bottles etc) seen near garbage dumps and landfills. Fellow forum members might have noticed prevalence of plastic material in the droppings of herbivorous animals too.
I would not like to call myself a technology phobic person and I am game for using technology for betterment of life; but lately this abuse of plastic is discomfiting me. Though, impact of plastic to environment and its slow bio-degradable nature is well known, we are doing pitifully nothing to address this threat.
It’s not like we are doing nothing. For example, look beneath any plastic bottle; you will find a triangular mark with chasing arrows. The marking informs about how to recycle that plastic. Recently, a new type of biodegradable resin has made its debut in the United States, called Plastarch Material (PSM). It is heat, water, and oil resistant and sees 70% degradation in 90 days. Biodegradable plastics based on polylactic acid (once derived from dairy products, now from cereal crops such as maize) have entered the marketplace, for instance as polylactates as disposable sandwich packs.
But still, today recycling of plastic has proved cumbersome and a costly affair.
Are there any alternatives?
We can lessen plastic usage by changing our habits. Next time when we go to the super market, we could carry a bag from home. You could connect with the super-market manager and extol him to use paper bags for packing. Buy rewritable CDs instead of writable CDs, better still; buy a high capacity pen-drive. Do not dispose polythene bags just like that; try reusing them (as garbage bags for example).
But herein lays the challenge. Public habit cannot bring about change for good. The public is entitled to feasible alternative to plastic. Let’s be honest, plastic has great utility. What is needed is more investment; both in producing bio-degradable plastic and ways to recycle plastic products.
This brings in an interesting dilemma:
Plastic recycling should be the prerogative of:
• We – the people (tax payers);
• The government; or
• The plastic manufacturers?
I am ambiguous about it. Do we need higher funding to clear the plastic mess? Should an environment conservation cess be created; to be paid by the plastic makers & public for appropriate use?
Or do we resign to realism?
This reminds of Pixar movie Wall-E. The plastic waste on Earth became so widespread, humans left Earth for good to live in a gargantuan spaceship for 700 years. They delegated the responsibility of cleaning Earth to an army of robot, called Wall-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth). WALL-E compacts plastic debris and stacks them up into neat skyscrapers, so that non-biodegradable plastic occupies less space!
Perhaps we could do that. Allocate a space as big as Mumbai in some remote part in India; compress plastic debris and stack them up so as to save space.
What’s your view?