Although plastic was the revolutionary object that modernised and made life convenient in the 20th century, the 21st century has woken up to the perils of plastic consumption. The problems of non-biodegradability are greater than its practicality and cost effectiveness. Plastic is anything but environmentally friendly.
Then 2020 hit and with it the unexpected coronavirus pandemic has been causing havoc across the globe. With the suspension of life, work and all global movements, there arose a novel problem. Due to the pandemic and increase in the need for medical resources, plastic has become the hero and has helped mitigate the problem of inadequate medical resources.
Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, WHO, says, “Single-use plastic products are the most sanitary choice when it comes to many applications, especially the consumption and transport of food, whether purchased at a restaurant or at a grocery store.”
From disposable masks to gloves, PPE kits, visors and shields, plastic has played a vital role in keeping food, healthcare workers and families safe. But what happens when the masks are off, the gloves are thrown away, the plastic shields need replacing? They are disposed of in dustbins and keep piling on. While paper and cloth decompose quite easily, plastic takes expensive chemicals and sometimes anything from 450-1000 years to completely break down and merge with soil.
Even though there are no specific figures and statistics about the estimated amount of plastic waste that has been generated during the pandemic, there is a logical conclusion about the amount. The rise in cases is directly proportional to the increase in plastic consumption and more solid waste generation.
What can we do?
How can we contribute towards mitigating the rising problems of plastic usage from the comfort of our homes?
We might be safely tucked away in our homes, but the frontline workers are out there maintaining hygiene, collecting trash as well as managing the waste even during the time of a raging pandemic. Hence, if our plastic usage decreases, then it balances if not improves the total production of solid waste that includes the inevitable medical waste.
We can be more mindful towards the environment and make sure to inculcate a sustainable lifestyle. Along with this, as the sizes of dumping grounds increase and personal usage too, it becomes a difficult situation for sanitation workers. Their task becomes more difficult than it already is. But it is obviously a steep task to completely turn over a new leaf. There are alternatives but not all are feasible especially now. What we can do however, is to be aware of the little things that are possible easily.
Another ‘R’ in the spotlight.
Everyone talks about the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) that help in managing waste. But the easiest way to help from our homes is by firstly Replacing to reduce. Identify the things that are made of plastic and look for alternatives to easily replace them. Here’s a list of easy habits that can be inculcated on a daily basis:
The above activities are easy to adopt, need minimal efforts but if adopted by each individual can really cumulate into reducing the usage of plastic in our surroundings. The lesser the consumption, the lesser the generation of toxic, solid waste.
This is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf so that when things go back to normal, we can be proud of being a Green Champion for our surroundings. This Nature Conservation Week, let us pledge to be more sustainable in our lifestyle choices so that the world breathes better.