“Reduce-Reuse-Recycle” is the most common path taken by anyone who starts their sustainable lifestyle journey. For years, we have been brainwashed that recycling is a great way to keep plastics in circulation and not feel guilty about them but do you know that all plastics do not get recycled? Only 9% of the world’s plastic gets recycled.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not against plastic. Plastic is a wonder material and must be used for its strength, durability, impact resistance, and recyclability but the sad truth is we are using this innovative material for single-use (for convenience). With people increasingly using single-use polythene products without giving any second thought towards the microplastic pollution caused by the same, it has become necessary to think of some APT alternatives for these products that are most commonly used. I have got a few options which are listed below:
In India, plastic cutlery alone is responsible for 22,000 tonnes of plastic waste each month and each year plastic straws account for about 120 billion pieces in India. Plastic cutleries cannot be recycled easily, even when made from recycled plastic. They often harm animals, wildlife and end up in our landfills, waterways, and oceans. Further, plastic straws are dangerous to seabirds as they misunderstand it for food, and ingest it. Thus, single-use plastic straws are responsible for the deaths of over a million seabirds every year due to choking.
Solution: Carry and reuse whatever steel/wooden/bamboo cutlery is available to you. The key is to reuse. Wherever possible, completely stop the unnecessary usage of straws. By the way, have you heard about edible cutlery?
Single-use crockery made up of plastic, paper and Styrofoam are another piece of plastic that ends up in landfills and pollutes waterways. Although paper plates, paper cups are claimed to be made of paper, they mostly have a thin layer of hydrophobic plastic film which makes them non-biodegradable and leach microplastics into the food. In general, paper plates are not recyclable as food grease and crumbs cannot be separated during the recycling process. When it comes to paper cups, most paper cups are made from virgin paper and not recycled paper which means trees are cut down to make disposable paper coffee cups. So, undoubtedly paper
cups are not all eco-friendly.
Styrofoam acts as an air pollutant when exposed to sunlight. It takes over 500 years to decompose, and leaches harmful chemicals into the environment, thus, is a threat to humans, animals, and the environment. Can they be recycled at least? The answer is NO. Used Styrofoam plates/cups cannot be recycled.
Solution: Carry and reuse whatever is available at home (steel/ceramic/etc.) when you go out for a bite. You can choose areca leaf plates and cups as an alternative for large gatherings. Alternatively, check for utensil banks that give out cutlery on rent for large gatherings. Do you know that it is possible to organize a zero-waste wedding? Don’t believe us? Check out this video.
3. Carry bags and water bottles
Yes, plastic carry bags are easy to use, are lightweight, strong, odorless, and chemically resistant but they majorly contribute to environmental pollution when disposed of recklessly. Animals, birds, and marine life like fish and sea turtles mistake plastic bags as food and get choked or entangled. Most recycling facilities do not accept plastic bags as they tend to get caught in recycling machinery and do not have capacities facilities and capacities to recycle plastic bags.
Even though Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) water bottles are fully recyclable, does not make sense to use only once. The manufacturing process of PET water bottles releases tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
Solution: Carry your own cloth/jute/denim bags whenever you go anywhere outside. Just as you take your phones and wallets without fail when you are going anywhere, make it a point to carry your eco-friendly carry bag and your reusable water bottle (preferably steel) along with you.
Plastic toothbrushes are one of the worst polluters around the globe. They are the second-largest plastic waste generators after plastic carry bags. In India, more than 150 billion toothbrushes are thrown into the garbage every single month.
Do you know that all the plastic brushes that were used since 1938 still exist on the planet? The manufacturing process of plastic toothbrushes uses a myriad of harmful plastic by-products as well as petroleum and crude oil.
Solution: Bamboo toothbrushes. The carbon footprint of bamboo toothbrushes is 68% lower than polypropylene plastic. Beware to choose a good-quality bristle for a bamboo toothbrush as most bamboo toothbrushes’ bristles are not eco-friendly.
that over 250 million pens or refills are used up every week by Indian students alone. Imagine the amount of chemicals of the disposable pens that end up in landfills, soil and waterways!
Solution: Use a pen that can be refilled. A fountain pen or a gel pen that can be refilled is a better (although not perfect) solution. This is the most sustainable solution as you will be able to use the same pen for years together.
The moral of the story, if we all unitedly work towards minimizing the usage of plastic products, we will be able to transform the world into a better place. Let us believe in the power of collective change and overcome the fear of getting judged for carrying our cutlery, crockery, carry bag, bottle and let us pledge to stop the usage of single-use plastic.
About the writer:
Pranav Kamath is a 11th grade student (15 years) who runs a Youtube channel to spread awareness about low waste lifestyle. So far, he planted 50 saplings in Bangalore. You can reach him on Instagram @_.pranav._7.