CHENNAI: A three-hour clean-up of Chennai beaches by Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) in June yielded 34 tonnes of inorganic waste, which is roughly the weight of 13 female elephants. If these elephants were to be made out of plastic like the waste, eight of them can be built out of plastic carry bags alone, and one elephant can be made purely from water packets, revealed an audit conducted on a sample of this waste by Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG).
The cleanup of beaches was a part of the breakfree from plastic global movement aimed at highlighting role and accountability of manufacturers responsible for proliferation of single-use plastics ending up in oceans, beaches, and waterways. In Chennai, CTC covered 25 km of coast from Marina to Akkarai Beach on June 18. CAG collected 25 bags of waste samples (about 5% of total waste) from this cleanup and segregated the samples to perform this audit.
“There were a total of 1829 pieces of multilaminate plastics, of which the Lighthouse zone (between Chennai Lighthouse and St. Bedes High School) had the highest number of pieces (702 pieces),” the report said. This litter can cause substantial harm to humans, marine organisms and economy. These plastics pose multiple dangers to humans. Direct toxicity from plastics comes from lead, cadmium, and mercury, according to ‘Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health’a study conducted by Gianna Andrews, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University in 2012.
According to this study, these toxins were found in many fish in the ocean posing a threat to humans linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems and childhood developmental issues. The audit emphasised that the plastics are extremely hard to collect and segregate. “Therefore, there is a strong case to be made for banning the production of such materials. At the very least, we must apply the polluter pays principle on plastic waste and impose EPR rules for their collection and sustainable disposal,” said Satyarupa Shekar, from CAG.