For years now, plastic has been our best friend for life. We have never thought of an alternativeto plastic, and it has always been the most preferred product with packaging, transporting, day-to-day usage, etc. So much so, that when we shop at any store, we involuntarily ask for a‘plastic cover’ to carry back. We had perhaps forgotten to live a life without plastic, till Governments have begun to take serious steps in that direction.
Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam envisions Maharashtra to be a ‘100 percent plastic-freestate’ by 2019. To achieve this in veracity, the Maharashtra government, through a notification,banned the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags, disposable plastic spoons, forks, cups,glasses, containers, PET bottles less than 500 ml, and thermocol for decoration. While thegovernment is structuring policies toward making the state an environment-friendly space forliving, it is as much the responsibility of the citizens to shoulder the much requisite effort in allmeans possible.
Lethargy, delay and aversion in adopting alternatives to plastics is expected among the masses.The ban on plastic can be effectively exercised with acceptable measures in place. India is notthe pioneer in this essential movement against plastic – China was among the first fewcountries to employ a ban on plastic and levy charges on biodegradable and compostable bagsfrom plastic. The espousal of the ban took continuous efforts from the Chinese government.Surprisingly, the country observed a 66% reduction in the usage of plastic bags since the rolloutof the ban.
Plastic has been an integral part of our daily lives—from grocery shopping to food deliveries;from packing anything and everything to disposing garbage—plastic has always been the go-toresource of a carriage. The state generates a whopping 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste every day.
According to a 2015 report of the Central Pollution Control Board, Mumbai alone generatesnearly 10% of Maharashtra’s total waste. With the dearth of burials, lot of plastic is then burntas a disposal method. The burning of plastic has adverse hazardous health effects, and it fuelsglobal warming by emitting harmful gases to global warming by contributing to the existingharmful gases. Considering all this, there is no debate that the ban on plastic by the
Maharashtra government is a step towards providing a healthy environment to its inhabitants.
However, the ban of plastic leaves us all in a feeble position – what is the alternative? Researchsuggests several replacements of plastic like glass bottles, cloth bags, disposable servewarefrom sugarcane and many more. Nevertheless, the cost and availability of these remain achallenge to be addressed. Among all the suggested replacements, ‘paper’ appears to be themost promising one. Replacing plastic with paper, and the varied range of its products, canresolve most of our problems, if not all.
Paper industry, over the years, has been subjected to many allegations – deforestation beingone of the significant ones. The belief that ‘paper manufacturing leads to deforestation’ is amyth. Wood is the primary raw material in the manufacturing of paper, but it is actually thepulpwood or plant fibre that is essentially used. Certainly, pulpwood is the primary componentof paper, but this pulpwood is not procured from forests. 83% of pulpwood for commercial useis obtained via plantations outside forests. Moreover, pulpwood plantations further help inabsorbing the atmospheric carbon dioxide that assists in reducing global warming.
Along with improving the health of the nation, paper also contributes in boosting the economyof the country. The paper industry caters to a broad segment of sectors like FMCG, food andbeverage, pharmaceutical, and textiles among others, and the demand of paper is predicted togrow at a CAGR of 8.9 percent and reach 11.4 million tonnes in FY ‘20.
Promoting paper, hence, is one of the prudent things to do today, than lament on the high-costs and resource availability. I firmly believe that a ban on plastic has been instrumental inunleashing the untapped potential of paper. To ensure that this alternative becomes the primechoice for everyone, it is essential to spread awareness of how to use paper and how it isprocured in eco-friendly ways. This education must go top-down and permeate at the grass-root level.
We need to remember that the success of an idea lies in its apt implementation.