Life in Plastic

Bangalore Capstone Environment Health

Plastics on roads, Plastic at homes, but Plastics in human blood! Is it really bearable? No. Recent findings of microplastics in human bloodstream has made health experts fearful of how far this can go, and connect this with plastics being largely used in food packaging today. But why is it so difficult to reduce plastic? And what are its consequences? Watch the film ‘Life in Plastic’ to get your questions answered.

Bengaluru-The IT capital of India, is a hub of technology and trade, but what comes along with it is Pollution: pollution of all sorts, and of plastics too. A report by Karnataka State Plastic Association states that Bengaluru generates more than 4,000 tons of solid waste every year, and plastic alone contributes to more than 20 percent of this waste. Henceforth,every ‘Bangalorian’ generates more than 16 kilograms of plastic waste every month, and this number has largely increased during the pandemic. Health experts connected this with the recent findings of a report by Dutch researchers, that revealed the presence of microplastics in human blood and in organs like lungs.

According to the research, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic is the most commonly found plastic in the human body, that largely intrudes the human system, through consuming liquids from PET plastic bottles. Health experts notified several severe health complications that could develop as plastics behaves on human systems like Necrosis, apoptosis, respiratory disorders, cancer, infertility, etc., and can be passed on to the next generations. Besides humans, plastics is visibly harming animals, especially cattle and strayed, causing choking and numerous fatalities. According to a United Nations Developmental Programme report, plastic waste solely constitutes 85 percent of the total marine litter .

From milk packets, to containers, plastic bottles to food packaging, plastic has become such an inherent part of our lives, that we tend to ignore its presence and also the harm it causes alongside. Findings from Brand Audit 2021 revealed that 62 percent of the plastic waste generated in Karnataka comes from food packaging.Hence, the grave concern that sustains is why is it so difficult to reduce plastics, especially when it comes to manufacturing. Why the manufacturers don’t switch to any other alternatives and substitutes that are more eco-friendly?

Answers that came from the biggest producers of plastic in the State, revealed that no other material, is as durable, cost-effective and non-reactive to food other than plastic. As the population increases, the demand for food products also increases, and hence increases the plastic waste. Economy dominates health, with many small-scale producers of plastics, like the MSMEs, refraining from switching to alternatives. Experts from the several waste management firms highlighted the red alert that many such firms are currently witnessing, as they fail to comply with the Extended Producer Responsibility norms of the State Pollution Control Board, that asks them to treat the plastic waste they generate annually.

The Swachh Survekshan Survey Rankings has given us a complete picture. Bengaluru faced a massive dip from 38th to 210th in the year 2017, that only elevated up to 194th by the year 2019. Environmental concerns are consistently pouring in with the increasing use of plastic in the state. From ground water pollution to, to air pollution via plastic burning, all of this ultimately connects to health and issues like climate change. Despite Bengaluru having one of the best policies for solid waste management policies in the country, ban on single-use plastic being one such norm, the inefficient implementation of such policies is what creates a problem according to the activists.

As per the 2020 report of the Central Pollution Control Board, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike treats nearly 40 percent of the plastic waste generated in the state, but many call it a joke. The segregation is well-planned in the urban and elite parts of the city, but even basic awareness of plastic use is missing in the rural areas. Also, many rural areas have become dumping and garbage burning sites.

Hence, the need of substitutes and solutions is urgent, and acknowledging this, a team of students and researchers at the Indian Institute of Science have come up with a substitute that is eco-friendly and also as economical and durable as plastic. The institute is already in talks with the government and several brands who approached them for the same. Citizen activism is also evident in the city with many people taking initiatives to ensure proper treatment and reuse of plastic waste.

Hence, there seems a silver lining amidst the dark clouds of plastic waste, with public-private partnership gaining pace. So, Life is in Plastic as Plastics have intervened in the very systems of humans and wildlife.

Click on the above link 'Made with flourish' to view the slideshow


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