Reality Check – Plastic Our Daily Companion

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The exponential increase in human population over the past few decades has paralleled globalsurge of plastic production and consumption ensuing an ever increasing menace of plastic pollution swathing Earth’s biodiversity and the natural resources. The brighter side of this grim picture shows that plastic – a synthetic organic polymer – is making our lives easier by fuelling many industries from automobiles, building and construction to electronics, transportation, and packaging. Nevertheless, it is a known fact that an exaggerated and unsustainable use of resources challenging nature’s capacity to recuperate has always come with a high price. And after a decade from now, we will bepayingthisprice for the “boon” which has already perturbed the Mother Nature rousing serious environmental concerns.

The world today is using 5 trillion plastic bags every year equaling 10 million plastic bags every 60 seconds; and few of us will have realization thata single-use plastic bagtakes 1,000 years to decompose. If plastic consumption continuesat the current pace, we would have been producing 1,124 million tonnes of plastic by 2050; the bulk of which will ultimately find its way into the trenches on land, deepest ocean beds and in the altitudes of the mountainsthereby destroying species and damaging their natural habitats at rates far greater than nature can recover.

A cursory look at the facts shows that every year, 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in oceans and by 2050, plastic in the oceans would have outnumbered the marine life. The greatest physical evidence of plastic waste pollution is the “five” garbage patches housed in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans composed of plastic soup sub-merged in the stillness of the water. These garbage islands have taken a heavy toll on marine creatures that are found ensnarled in plastic bags and being choked to death after ingesting plastic bottles.

To add fuel to the fire, chemical decomposition of plastic takes what we call ages. Moving down into the oceans, sunlight loses its intensityand consequently slows down the chemical breakdown of plastic. The plastic, however, undergoes physical fragmentation into particles of <5mm in size known as micro-plastic particles. Our oceans already contain 51 trillion of these particles poisoning marine biodiversity. The micro-plastic particles move from one tier of food chain to another ultimately ending up in the human bodiesrendering them susceptible to ailments.

This bleak picture is a wake-up call for galvanizing action against plastic pollution and using holistic approach to tackle this menace before it eclipses our planet and suffocates the life therein. It calls for combined effort of the governmental bodies, corporate sector, donors, lobbyists, communities and most importantly the civil society. Many governmental bodies around the world have already accepted the challenge and taken initiatives to eliminate plastic pollution by banning plastic use and levying plastic bags. The countries from Asia, Africa, Americas and Europe are hand-in-hand to turn the tide on plastic by reducing, reusing and recycling.

In this scenario, the universal Global 2030 Agenda of United Nationsfalls into place squarely – providing a guiding framework to drive global action for conservation of planet. Advocating UN’s cause of social, economic and environmental sustainable development, the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) takes on board developing nations forachieving socio-economic development through sustained use of innate resourcesand promoting science, technology and innovation.

This year, while the world celebrates Environment Day let’s take a pledge to beat plastic pollution by reducing its “footprints” around the globe.


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