|The Gateway of India as seen from the Mumbai Harbour in India / Photo by Smarta via Shutterstock|
With all the commitments that governments around the world are making to curb pollution and fight climate change one step at a time, it’s safe to say that several countries should be commended for their efforts. Granted, their efforts are mortally requisite regardless, but in light of how difficult it can be to get any small group of people to cooperate on anything no matter how important it is, environmentalists are somewhat reassured by the fact that there are large green factions in developed countries internationally that push for these commitments and are succeeding. One of the most recent and laudable successes is a new initiative in India. The Indian government has committed to eradicating all its single-use plastic within the next four years, which is a pretty big deal even if it sounds minor.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement on World Environment Day, and it represents the most ambitious commitment to the war on plastic pollution that any of the greenest 60 countries have made. It’s expected to significantly mitigate plastic flow from some 1.3 billion people. United Nations Environment Program Executive Director Erik Solheim describes it as a “phenomenal commitment” that he expects will inspire the rest of the world and “ignite real change.” India’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan has explained since the announcement was made that single-use plastics are to be banned altogether nationwide by 2022.
“It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that the quest for material prosperity does not compromise our environment,” PM Modi says. “The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy, but through awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.” Mumbai already has a beach cleanup initiative in progress, which is the tip of the iceberg in India, and Inhabitat reported on that initiative, which was established earlier this year by Afroz Shah, a local attorney.
The UN Environment Program has since published a report that presents “the first comprehensive global assessment of government action against plastic pollution” conducted by any country out of the more than 60 different countries that have conducted case studies on the subject at all. In that report is a list of India’s states and cities, categorizing them based on which ones have banned plastic bags already, as well as other disposable plastic products. The case study in question focused briefly on the beach cleanup in Mumbai, too, finding that its volunteer army has already cleaned up some 13,000 tons of trash (primarily plastics), and results are already being seen. An Olive Ridley turtle hatchling sighting was reported from the beach for the first time recently in over two decades.
|Plastic pollution in the ocean / Photo by Rich Carey via Shutterstock|
World Environment Day 2018 prompted the UN Environment Program to write, “Plastic pollution has become an epidemic,” not particularly in response to the case study in India but, rather, addressing the world at large. “Every year, we throw away enough plastic to circle the Earth four times. Much of that waste doesn’t make it into a landfill but instead ends up in our oceans, where it’s responsible for killing one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year. For the good of the planet, it’s time to rethink how we use plastic.”
In the interest of understanding the urgency of that message, there are four critical things about plastic pollution to which the general public should be privy. Firstly, conventional plastic is made from fossil fuels. Most scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels is the main catalyst for climate change. Plastic production accounts for approximately eight percent of oil production worldwide. Secondly, we’ve thrown away most of the plastic that has ever been produced anyway. Since the 1950s, which s when plastic production really industrialized, over 9 billion tons of the stuff has not only been produced and disseminated but also discarded. Climate News Network: “Of that waste, only 9 percent has been recycled, 12 percent incinerated and 79 percent of what is essentially indestructible, man-made material is either in a landfill or polluting the environment.”
Thirdly, oceans are now just dump sites for plastics according to many studies. One study found that plastic refuse is present in minuscule amounts within every species of seabirds. Another study asserts that if we keep consuming plastics as per status quo, experts anticipate the ocean will consist of one plastic ton per every three tons of fish by 2025. The same study says that, 25 years after that, plastic content in the ocean is expected to physically outweigh all the fish of the ocean collectively. Fourthly, governments and private corporations are finally acknowledging the plastics plight, which is objectively a good thing. EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans recently made the statement, in fact, that “Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans and in our food.”
Obviously, India is a step ahead of the curve on that front, as evidenced by Shanvi Srivastava, an actor from Kannada, India who started the hashtag, #NoStrawChallenge. A recent study commissioned by the anti-plastic pollution NGO, Strawless Ocean, “annually an estimated 71 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of turtles have been found to have plastic in their stomach.” Plastic straws are, in fact, among the top ten factors of water pollution worldwide.