Not so plastic fantastic

Today when you go home, take a look around. A lot of items being used must be either made out of plastic or contain elements of plastic. Even in the use-and-throw items, the packaging is mostly made out of plastic. Then there’s the menace of the household staple, the carrier bag.

On the face of it, plastic is a very good solution to our daily needs. It is cheap, lightweight and very resistant. But after years of heavy use, it now poses a threat to the very survival of humans on the planet. .

According to estimates from the World Economic Forum (WEF), around 353 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year. And two-thirds of this will get dumped at the end of the year. It will turn to waste. It is non-biodegradable, so where will it go?

It will wash up on our beaches, block our drains, kill our cattle and even pollute agricultural land. Not a great picture right?

We see several news articles every day about loads of plastic waste being strewn across beaches and oceans. Or of a whale beached on the shores, dying due to high consumption of plastic. To put it bluntly, our Earth is slowly dying because of plastic waste.

So, what can be done?

The first thing we can do as human beings is consuming less plastic. Governments across the globe have banned the use of plastic in everyday life. Or, they have passed legislation allowing only the biodegradable kind of plastic to be used in products.  It is indeed the first step on a long road.

Another solution, that is quicker and more realistic, is the recovery of plastic waste for the purpose of recycling it. Both companies and governments can bring back plastic and recycle or use it to innovate more products.

The Indian government is now using plastic in road construction. This positive step is amongst the most encouraging being taken anywhere in the globe.

But what about recovery?

It’s still a difficult task to collect the plastic and bring it back to factories. To help with this, several innovations have sprung up over the last few years which have been majorly backed by blockchain technology that’s working to recover plastic.

But much more needs to be done

It’s crucial that companies, public and private, come up with new solutions to recover plastic. New solutions may include the use of robots, automation or even creating more jobs for humans.

At the COP27 Summit, governments gather to discuss such solutions on ‘Solutions Day’. It’s highly encouraging to see every stakeholder discussing the issue so keenly.

However, it would be most beneficial for private players to set up more units in areas that are the most vulnerable, Africa and South Asia. These units can then work in the field of the plastic recovery and later down the line, recycling.

With the high population of these areas, businesses will get a chance to minimize their costs, and use human-intensive methods whilst also improving their profits. At the same time, any efforts to save the world will have the most prominent impacts in these regions.

Or, the private sector can also collaborate with the governments and help in forming better policies that push for plastic recovery.