We all look forward to the festive vibes that Diwali brings along with it, especially friends and family gathering together for a celebration. But, hardly ever we think about what happens to post the celebrations. The very next morning the first sight on the roads is that of burnt crackers, polluted air and a huge dump of plastic disposable cutleries in a black garbage bag. As bad as imagining this scenario, the worst part is the consequences we face every year due to our incoherent actions. According to data released by civic bodies, every year about 50 tonnes of excess waste is collected in comparison to normal days on the very next day of Diwali.
Each year we hear government taking strict actions to curb air pollution by imposing strict regulations on burning crackers, but no action is taken to reduce the usage of plastic/thermacol disposable cutleries. After we dump plastic waste; it is collected and further thrown into landfill sites. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Delhi, the amount of waste collected and discarded at landfill sites exceeds the amount it can accommodate. Further, in Delhi alone, out of the total waste collected, a massive amount of 800 tons is only classified as plastic waste. The overflowing waste is not only polluting the surrounding land but also air and groundwater.
The dangers of plastic disposal are tremendous. According to doctors, chemicals used in plastic has a high probability of causing diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Infertility along with others.
Putting aside the harm caused by dumping plastic disposable, there is also the health risks associated with using plastic vessels. Often to avoid workloads during the festival, people serve food in plastic vessels. Plastic cups, plates, spoons, and bowls are commonly used to avoid the hassle of washing the traditional cutleries and utensils.
In Indian tradition, serving food to our guests is not just any ritual but an act to show our love and gratitude for them. But what we don't realize is that instead of showing off love towards them we are slowly serving them poison in small amounts.
The plastic used in making these dishes and other storage containers is made using harmful chemicals. It contains Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical which is proven to promote breast cancer cell growth and lower sperm counts. Pregnant women, infants, and children are especially at high risk caused by the usage of plastic. Many families are also using plastic vessels in microwave to re-heat food white is a cause of worry. Plastic does not last forever and the more it is used, the more amount of chemicals used to prepare that container begins to break down. And when they start to break down, it has a direct effect on the food that we eat, leading to detrimental health problems.
Over the years, we have developed a dependency on the use of plastic vessels. It is high time that we change this habit. Not only in our food, we also use a plastic sheet, carry bags and boxes for gifting purposes.
The recent decision to stop the use of single-use plastic is a commendable decision taken by our People's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After a huge success of Open Defecation Free (ODF) India under Swachh Bharat Mission, it's time we lay our focus equally on another immerging issue that is freeing the environment from Single-Use Plastic. According to figures mentioned under Swachh Bharat Mission, 35 states and Union Territories have been declared Open Defecation Free with around 10,07,25,000 household toilets built under this yojana, ever since its announcement on October 2 in 2014. An estimated increase of 62% has been witnessed in Sanitation and ODF since 2014. But when it comes to ‘Single-Use Plastic-Free' nation, we are far behind and there is still a long road ahead.
Cutting down on plastic utensils, decorations and gift packaging during festivals is a good start to avoid the hazards of plastic usage. But this is not a one-man job; to achieve this objective, we need to ensure a united front from both the general public and corporate set-ups. For instance, food delivery companies, as well as restaurants, also need to become a part of this process of eliminating the use of single-use plastic, as a lot of people order food during Diwali parties to save time and energy.
India is generating Tones of plastic waste rapidly, as per the reports by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) 25,940 tones of plastic waste is added every day which almost equivalent to 9000 Asian elephants and 86 Boeing 747 jets. Out of these 10,376 tons, a day is an uncollected plastic. United effort put up by the general public as well as restaurants and other food providers is the only way to reduce plastic consumption.
Plastic has become an unavoidable part of our lives in the past three decades or so. Just like we promote the concept of pollution-free Diwali, we should also promote ‘Plastic-free Diwali'. Let us all switch over to the use of biodegradable and paper plates, cups and other cutleries. It may cost a little more than the usual plastic, but in return will ensure good health for you and your family.
This Diwali, let us all unite and make a new ritual to pledge for a ‘Plastic-free Diwali'. Let's spread joy and happiness and not plastic.
BY Jatin Ahlawat, Director, Pi-Lo Shudh Pani Seva Foundation.