Centre implements nation-wide ban to ensure plastic-free future

Three Delhi-NCR individuals on the changes that they have made in their lifestyle to reduce plastic waste 

Published: 01st July 2022 08:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd July 2022 10:29 AM   |  A+A-

plastic ban, plastic

Image used for representational purpose only.

Express News Service

With the intention to drive home the message of how gravely plastic waste has impacted the environment, the Centre has implemented a nationwide ban on 19 single-use plastic items—low utility with high-littering potential—starting July 1. While adhering to such a ban will in no way be easy, making small and efficient changes is the way forward to reduce your plastic footprint. Not convinced? Hear it from four individuals who have been mindful of putting a halt to their plastic consumption.

TRY TO LEAD BY ACTION

Saumya Garg (25), a queer-affirmative counselling psychologist, has been living a low-waste lifestyle for about five years now, “I will not say that I am living a plastic-free life because that sounds utopian.” The Ghaziabad resident makes it a point to consciously reduce plastic waste every day—she avoids plastic-packaged toiletries by using manjan [organic tooth powder] for dental care, besan [gram flour] for bathing, shampoo bars with eco-packaging.

Garg has also started using cloth sanitary pads instead of disposable sanitary pads made from plastic. “Initially, there was a psychological resistance to buying, using, and washing cloth pads. Eventually, it became a mindful routine. Then, as I started travelling, I began using a menstrual cup, which has been a life-saver,” she adds.   

Tweaking basic household practices was the next thing Garg tried; she now buys pulses and grains in bulk or from the kirana [local grocery store] using her own containers; steers clear from purchasing milk in plastic packaging and buys it from the local dairy in steel canisters, etc. “My values are aligned [with environmentalism] so, making changes to live a low-waste lifestyle was easy,” she says.

Change is never devoid of challenges. Elaborating on that, Garg adds, “Convenience is a major challenge. Carrying your own things—cutlery, cups, etc.,—instead of using disposables can take effort. You need to go out prepared. 

Also, when you are out with a bunch of people, sometimes waste is inevitable as I cannot ask everyone to lead the life I do.” Environmentalism, she adds, also comes with the connotation of being elite. “That is another barrier. If someone is not very well-off and wants to try that lifestyle, they have to dig deep to find organic products, authentic brands that are not expensive.”

Adding that adopting a plastic-free lifestyle should not be “enforced” on anyone, Garg concludes, “Don’t push anyone or try convincing someone; they will resist it. Pick up from what the other person values and start from there. Always lead by action, if someone is close to you, they will learn from you.”

ACCEPT, ADOPT AND CHANGE

It was about two years ago when East Delhi resident Shruti Sharma (31), who is the founder of the initiative, Books on the Delhi Metro and co-creator of The Earth Book Club, became conscious of her choices. “I realised that plastic is creating havoc, so I started taking steps to reduce plastic waste from my life—carrying containers to the grocery store, taking reusable tumblers, steel straws, containers, switching to menstrual cups, etc.”

The problem, she says, that needs to be remediated immediately is the way people think—acceptance remains the biggest challenge she faces. “People think it is okay to use one bottle—but, it is that one bottle used by each of us that makes it a pile of bottles.” Following the same train of thought, she adds, “As a person trying to minimise the use of plastic in their life, the biggest challenge is making people understand why this should be done right now. We are in a critical place where we are drowning in plastic. The oceans are throwing back the plastic at us, and there is no place to make it vanish; if we burn it, it will be toxic fumes, or will go to the landfill.”

Calling the nationwide ban “a great step” she concludes, “Now the onus is on the consumers to take this plastic ban seriously. I would suggest that you start by sensitising yourself on the different types of plastic—not all plastic is bad as some can be recycled and reused. It is important that people are aware of single-use plastic that leeches into our lives every day and avoid it at any cost.”

THE POWER OF SMALL STEPS

Having been aware of her surroundings from a very young age, Delhi-based Aarzoo Godara (25)—a lawyer by profession—started educating herself about embracing alternatives to plastic. “I stopped using plastic bags since my early college days. However, it was in 2017 when I transitioned to completely and consciously avoiding plastic,” Godara shares.

Being involved in waste segregation—as part of the Delhi-based volunteer group, We Mean To Clean—aided in making such a change, “Once I started segregating waste, I saw how much dry waste comes out of my closet, my dressing area, my food, almost everything. I realised that most of it goes into landfills.” It was after witnessing waste firsthand that she decided it was time to start making more conscious choices. “I started composting the wet waste.

But I knew that the dry waste would still end up in the landfills, so I started looking for substitutes.” Godara waited for her personal care products to near its end before she switched to alternatives, “When it was time to change the toothbrush I was using, I bought a bamboo one. Once my comb broke, I switched to a natural material comb. I started making such basic changes.” 

Now, she uses non-plastic alternatives for most toiletries and personal care products, and biodegradable pads for menstrual care (which she claims is still not completely eco-friendly given the plastic lining on it). “It is easy to make the switch; when you start adopting simple changes consciously, it becomes a lifestyle.”

For beginners, the easiest way to switch to a plastic-free life, Godara shares, is by avoiding packaged food. “My friends laugh at me for this, but I have replaced the pack of mint I carry in my bag with a box of saunf [fennel seeds]. If you are going out for a run, rather than grabbing an energy drink, buy coconut water. Even as a student—who generally consume a lot of packaged food—this is the first and easiest step to take.

And as a parent, this is great if you’re looking for healthy alternatives for your child.” However, she mentions that there are plenty of challenges in leading such a lifestyle. “I think one of the major challenges is availability of package-free alternatives or even substitutes for buying things in bulk. The other challenge is that sometimes, the people you stay with (family) may not agree with a lot of things you do,” Godara concludes. 

IMPROVE YOUR AWARENESS

From buying pens that could be refilled to upcycling waste so as to make something multi-purpose, Gurugram-based Rashi Garg recalls being a very resourceful child. The 26 year old mathematics tutor mentions, “I would reuse and recycle everything I could without being aware of the environmental impact, back then; it was just in order to reduce wastage.” It was years later that she realised the environmental concerns due to plastic overconsumption.

Garg adds, “When I realised the disadvantages of plastic waste, I started actively taking steps to avoid using plastic as much as I can.” The measures she started taking included carrying bamboo straws and cutlery in her handbag, using menstrual cups instead of sanitary napkins, etc. She elaborates, “I have recently started carrying a steel collapsible cup when I go out so I can say no to plastic cups if I am buying tea or some other beverage from the local vendor. I also try not to opt for takeaway food.”

Apart from this, Garg has only recently espoused the carry-your-own-container formula, “When I go to get sweets, I avoid taking it in the packaging given by vendors. Instead, I carry a container from home.” She also ensures “taking the plastic that reaches home through different mediums to a recycling vendor”. 

Awareness, however, remains the challenge. “Those outside and within my family are not willing to understand the negative effects of plastic,” she sighs, continuing, “At times, vendors refuse to take notice of why we bring our own packages—that is the lack of awareness with the general public.”

The bright side, however, is that it is never too late to take the first. Garg recommends cutting down the use of sanitary napkins if you are female, “That’s the biggest step a person can take as using cloth pads or even menstrual cups can cut down on the amount of plastic wastage.” Others, she says, must start by carrying natural substitutes to plastic goods, “Carry your own tote bag and try not using plastic straws but carry steel straws. I think it is important to suggest small steps that one can take easily and eventually lead on to the bigger journey."



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