The world is increasingly realizing the menace posed by the use of plastic in the day to day activities of the people. Beating plastic pollution has been the theme adopted by the United National for the World Environment Day 2018.
Industrialization and commercialization of life has resulted in the increased use of plastic products, because of the obvious advantages of plastic arising from its qualities of light weight, high strength, durability, malleability and the comparative cost advantage.
The use of plastic will spread from urban and rural areas as more and more rural areas and rural people get urbanized and/or get into the web of commercialization of life which is on the increase.
The dangers involved in the increasing use of plastic are manifold and well-recognized. Recently, India’s Union Minister for Environment Dr Harsh Vardhan has in an interview pointed out the following dangers:- “The unattended plastic cause many problems. They are littered around and give an un-aesthetic look. The plastic bags, if not collected systematically, may find their way into the drainage system creating unhygienic environment and choking of drains and nalas causing water-born diseases. Recycled plastic bags and containers used for dispensing foodstuffs may contaminate food items. Plastic waster finding way to water bodies, rivers, oceans, etc. may result into death of aquatic life ….
In view of the above threats, there is clearly a need to stop the onslaught of the plastic menace and its further spread. This will be possible at least in certain specific areas.
GIRD proposes to take up a study of such specific areas and identify and initiate probable action programme for arresting the spread of plastic us areas where the prevention of or considerable reduction in the use of plastic is possible and desirable.
The probable specific areas include large public places where the plastic use has not yet become a reality and also such large public places where the plastic use has arrived very recently and which can be reversed by the adoption of traditional means or new innovative means such as using cups, places made of waste paper products.
At first, large temples and other places of worship and religious and/or spiritual centers where plastic cups/bowls or plates are used for serving Prashad / food / water to large numbers of devotees will be discouraged and the respective authorities will be persuaded to revert back to the earlier traditional practices (like use of “dunas” or leaf-plates) and where the earlier traditional practices are still in use, the authorities will be encouraged to retain the practice by convincing them of the dangers involved in the use of plastic.
Through the examples of the temples and other religious places, we will bring out in focus the dimension of the problem of plastic use already inaugurated in such religious places and also the dimensions of the magnitude of the problem that can be averted and we will make maximum efforts possible to induce and encourage the respective authorities managing the affairs of these religious places to continue with the old traditional practices to adopt innovative eco-friendly products.
Encouraging and Revival of Leaf-Plate Making
During the project period, we will make maximum efforts to encourage the continued use or reversion to the traditional leaf-plates for serving food items, Prasad etc. in the temples, other religious places and during other public functions where people are served food items like festivals, social or family functions and ceremonies.
Leaf-plate making is a traditional occupation of many of the communities in different States. These communities are often either forest dwellers or live near the forests. The people of these communities have been earning their livelihood by making and selling leaf-plates and other products made out of forest produce. They have been steadily losing this livelihood means for various reasons. Onslaught of plastic is obviously one of the reasons.
It is true that people in general prefer modern technology and modern products in the place of traditional products. Therefore, it may not be appealing to the people or to their liking, and in some cases also not feasible, to revert back to the old and traditional products for replacing plastic. For example, bringing back into life the old mitti kullars (earthern pots) for serving tea in trains and railway stations will not be feasible and practical in view of the advantages in many respects of the plastic cups, including logistic and handling-related advantages, and also because of the aversion towards the old mitti kullars among people when they are now used to plastic cups.
But in the case of the use of leaf-plates for serving small food items in such public places as temples and other religious places, and in some other gatherings such as in community halls or public pendals during religious or social functions, and also in schools where food items are served to school children, there will not be such problem of aversion or dislike for old and traditional means and methods. Here the advantages of traditional products in juxtaposition to the dangers of plastic can easily and effectively be invoked because of the different settings and occasions than that of a traveller in a train or railway station. In the case of schools this can also be a practical opportunity to educate children of the need for protecting environment and adopting environment-friendly practices and behaviors.
The above action will have the advantage of promoting the livelihood of women of the traditionally leaf-plate making communities and also other women who will be willing to take up the work of leaf-plate making, etc. This is in addition to the huge benefit that will accrue to the social and national good by way of preclusion of use of plastic products where it is not at all necessary and avoidable and where such preclusion is practical and feasible.
Note: Plastic is a product of scientific advancement. But replacing the plastic with the tradition leaf-plates need not be considered as anti-science or unscientific. On the contrary when promotion of leaf-plates is for thwarting the deleterious consequences of plastic use, it should be taken as a scientific action, as the replacement of plastic in this case advances human well-being.
Replacing Plastic with Paper Boards for Packaging
Replacement of plastic with waste-paper products like paper-boards would go a long way in precluding the use of plastic in different commercial sectors. We propose to undertake a pilot research on development new products out of waste-paper which can be used in the place of plastic products such cups, plates, straws etc.
We also propose to undertake a campaign for use of Paper Boards for packaging materials. During the campaign, we would encourage different commercial sectors to replace plastic with paper board and other paper-based products for their packing units and also to help set up paper board and other paper-based products manufacturing units which employ women in the locality.”