Is the war against plastic pollution too difficult to win?

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Is the war against plastic pollution too difficult to win?
Is the war against plastic pollution too difficult to win?

Africa-Press – Eritrea. Candy wrapper and a to-go tin among others are some of the insignificant little pieces of plastic trashed as soon as their work is done.

But one trashed today sums up to hundreds tomorrow, posing a nightmare to mother nature.

Several environmental activists preach on cleaning up the environment.

Many of them focus mostly at the Coastal region while others by the rivers.

They are all doing a laudable work but we have forgotten a lot.

We have nearly zero efforts in taming candy wrappers we so carelessly drop just outside the shop and the plastic bags we drop after eating that ‘chips mwitu’, a moniker for locally made French fries.

According to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), researchers in Germany say that terrestrial micro-plastic pollution is much higher than marine micro-plastic pollution.

“An estimation of four to 23 times higher, depending on the environment.”

Terrestrial micro-plastic happens on land while marine micro-plastic, like the name suggests, occurs due to plastic pollution at sea.

Do you think it’ll be okay to ban the use of plastic paper bags? Oh wait. My bad! Those were banned in 2017.

Yet as I walk down the street to the bus stations, I have seen enough papers to fill the 120-litre sized trash can.

A rephrase, do you think Kenya should go ahead and ban all the single use plastics, like the papers used to pack snacks and plastic tumblers?

It is one of the UNEP recommendations in dealing with the horror of plastic pollution.

Here is why we all should have a grudge against the single use plastics: They play a major part in harming and threatening life both on land and in water – to all living things, macro and micro.

Responsible trashing of the single use plastic, as mostly preached, is in progress but still a lot needs to be done.

Over the past 15 years, more than 4 million metric tonnes of single use plastics have been produced.

Most of these are trashed daily leading to massive plastic waste sites and landfills.

According to Center for Biological Diversity, it take around 1,000 years to degrade waste in a landfill.

“These papers cannot fully decompose, they photo-degrade into micro-plastics that continue to pollute the environment,” the center says.

The plastic that does not end up in land fills are recycled.

Recently, Indonesia started plastic recycling in hopes to achieve what Singapore has.

They are packaging using textile material like polyester, which are used in bags, shirts, shoes and carpets.

Even though it is a working progress, it is a somewhat smart way of delaying photo-degrading.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a US based NGO whose core mandate is to safeguard Earth and it’s elements from pollution, says that only nine per cent of all plastic is recycled.

“But 91 percent of all plastic isn’t recycled at all. Instead it ends up in landfills or in the environment. Single-use plastics in particular—especially small items like straws, bags, and cutlery—are traditionally hard to recycle because they fall into the crevices of recycling machinery and therefore are often not accepted by recycling centers.”

Stephen Buranyi, a US freelance journalist in his article ‘The plastic backlash: what’s behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference?’ pointed out that even though many environmental groups and celebrities are protesting against single use plastic papers, it is a hard war to win.

Since 2016, there has been a lot of campaigns against plastic papers and bans of the same in various states across the world but we have barely made much progress.

Many parks across the country have a rule of ‘No plastics allowed’, but many of us have found a way to defy those rules.

If you take enough time to surf the internet for clean up calls in parks, you will find a couple of tens, most of which are dated on some World Clean Up or Environmental Days.

We still use and irresponsibly trash plastic tins despite knowing their effects to the environment – starting with how unsightly they become.

It is not just the environmental pollution and photo degrading short coming but health issues too.

The long term inhalation of burning plastic has been linked to cancer.

Burning plastic produces chemicals such as dioxin and furan.

“When these highly toxic chemical compounds are inhaled, instant reactions occur leading to coughing, shortness of breath and dizziness. The long-term exposure is capable of leading to cancer. Dioxin is also referred to as a human carcinogen which if inhaled can have deadly consequences,” said Dr. Shivaraj A L, Consultant Pulmonologist at Whitefield, Bangalore.

Plastic is cheap, it is a tradition and has so far proven hard to get rid off.

Tradition- the thing about any habit labelled tradition, is that it is hard to let go of.

And we are addicted to plastic.

The world’s first fully synthetic plastic was Bakelite, invented in New York in 1907, by Leo Baekeland, who came up with the term ‘plastics’.

It has and will continue proving hard to break a century and five-year old tradition.

Humans passed the 100 mm tone plastic produce mark in 1990, and a 2020 report by NRDC, said that the World produces 300 mm tones of single use plastic annually.

During the Nairobi UNEP meeting on February 28, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) enacted a landmark treaty to tackle plastic pollution across the world.

On March 2, 2022, Over 170 member countries of the UNEA-5, endorsed the ‘End Plastic Pollution’ resolution in Nairobi.

The resolution could boost investment in recycling technologies and bio-plastics production.

“Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic of its own. Paradoxically, plastics are among the most long-lasting products we humans have made – and frequently, we still just throw it away,” Espen Barth Eide, the President of UNEA-5 said.

In 2020, the UN baseline warned that the ever-increasing growth in the amount of plastics produced has led to a significant plastic waste generational problem that has outpaced society’s ability to manage it.

But citing the statistics of product and use of single use plastics, we are almost losing the war at the starting point.

Here are some of the ways we can battle this addiction together:

Instead of ordering delivery food all day long, cook. Make food orders only when necessary.

UNEP suggested that Governments support innovation for reusable plastic – this way, market for single use plastics will eventually end.

Carry a re-usable water drinking bottle like the vacuum cups and non plastic food packing dishes.

Avoid paper plates and tumblers.

Carry reusable shopping bags and buy items that are not packed in plastics.

We need to be on the same terms regarding single use plastics otherwise, our chances of winning are slimmer.

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