Breaking a precedent in a way, this year on World Environment Day, June 5, no mega or goal-oriented plantation drive was organized by the government(s). For the past few years, record-making and breaking, extraordinarily large-scale tree plantations have been held on each environment day. However, the credibility of the drive with land on hand and funds used for the final fate of the saplings planted has also forced upon the endeavour a lot of criticism. Trying to maximize green cover in what in India at this time happens to be the worst weather scenario (June has been the hottest month for some years now with this year taking the cake) had caused some serious doubts over government intentions. So, in a way, it was a wise decision to underplay plantations and highlight other issues this environment day as the environment has a much deeper meaning than just tree cover. But, plastic waste? Solutions to plastic pollution? Somehow this did not click!
The reason is clear. Plastic is a manmade nuisance which is given very prominent focus every year with a dedicated government campaign- ‘BeatPlasticPollution’-already being run by the central and state governments. Merging it with environment day did not make sense as it seemed to dilute both issues and seemed just a lip service! It would have been better to pick up another issue plaguing the environment, and there are many-innumerable in fact! From air, to soil, to water, to biosphere, they could have had their pick! But, plastic pollution? Really!
The brutal yet honest truth is there is no solution to plastic pollution other than recycling because as long as we continue to exist in a civilized society, plastic cannot be gotten rid of. Why waste such a lot of time and taxpayers’ money on such campaigns that are neither taken seriously by the public nor the administration! Every year, one-time use plastic is banned for a few weeks or months, and then it makes a comeback. From a refill wrap to a milk packet, everything is plastic! If we order anything online, inside the cardboard box, the final product is wrapped in layers of plastic! Even envelopes have a deceptive layering of plastic on the inside! What is the common man supposed to do? How is he supposed to avoid it? Now, remember, what a humane part plastic had played during the Covid-19! Had it not been for plastic- and much of it was single use too- the fatality would have been much, much greater! From disposable gloves, masks, and kits to oxygen pouches, plastic was one stoic substance that did not falter even in the face of nature’s biggest punishment! Yet, was all of it responsibly disposed of? I doubt!
The point here is plastic is not a debatable topic but one that needs action primarily by the government! The authorities should quietly start closing down one-time-use plastic manufacturing units, and plastic bottle-making units, and issue directives to milk companies to find alternatives to plastic pouches (they can set up booths in each locality and people can collect milk from there as was done when I was a child), direct companies to stop wrapping up products (from refills to TV sets) in plastic, especially thin plastic, and stop letting developed nations deviously route their plastic waste to us. Make available to the public an alternative to plastic, especially during inconveniencing weather like the rainy season, and -most importantly- direct and teach the municipal workers to segregate the waste properly. Such is a lack of concern that even the segregated garbage provided to the waste collectors and sweepers by some considerate individuals is all dumped together! Until all this is done, merely organising campaigns to make the public look guilty of this pollution is no good. Instead, commemorating the World Environment Day for a genuine cause that can actually make a difference should do a whole lot of good! Why don’t we begin with this mad race for concretised development?