Pollution: We are back to square one

While overall plastic waste generation has come down in the state, several banned products have made a comeback following the pandemic 

Published: 05th June 2021 07:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th June 2021 07:01 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: Despite the ban imposed by the state, the use of single-use plastic products remains unabated in the state. The recent waterlogging and flooding yet again exposed the severity of the issue as tonnes of plastic debris had washed ashore from the overflowing drains, rivers and sea in many parts of the state. Kerala generates an average of 45,000 tonnes of plastic annually and around 45 per cent of it is single-use plastic. The impact of the plastic waste on oceans is quite substantial in the context of Kerala which has 560km long coastline and an extensive network of water bodies.

A recent study estimated that close to 1.70 billion plastic pieces weighing approximately 1,057 tonnes are currently floating along the state’s coast. Ever since the pandemic outbreak, the use of single-plastic has increased exponentially. Plastic carry bags and other banned plastic products have made an aggressive comeback.

Pandemic peril
“After the pandemic outbreak, the priority got shifted and the local bodies are engaged in Covid-19 containment activities. The door-to-door collection of non-biodegradable waste has to be strengthened. Currently, the Haritha Karma Sena is engaged in the waste collection but only 50 to 60 per cent of the local bodies have roped in the sena. More local bodies should launch door-to-door waste collection,” said Shibu K N, India coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). 

He said enforcement of the existing rules would help mitigate the plastic menace. “Local bodies are not enforcing or booking offenders who dump garbage in drains and canals. There is a clear law to book such offenders. Eventually, all this waste is discharged into the sea and during every heavy rain, this is getting exposed,” Shibu added. He said that the local bodies should intensify such drives and book violators polluting water bodies. “Local bodies should think about sustainable solutions rather than doing one-time cleaning,” he added. 

Clean up after yourself
A senior official of Suchitwa Mission said the pandemic and subsequent lockdown have brought down the overall amount of plastic waste generated in the state as public events like exhibitions and large gatherings were banned. ”There is a notion among the public that using disposables is the only way to counter the pandemic. We were able to bring down the use of plastic by 60 per cent before the pandemic. Even now, the usage is less but carrying bags and other single-use plastic products have made a comeback. We need to act on it. Now, the fast-food chains and hotel industry have started using more plastic as only parcels are allowed,” said the official. 

A senior official of the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change said enforcement of plastic management rules is not happening in the state because of the pandemic. “The entire system is busy fighting the pandemic and this is not the time to blame anybody for the menace. We need to act on the existing rules and norms to put an end to the menace,” said the official. The door-to-door collection has been hit because of the lockdown restrictions. “It’s impossible for the Haritha Karma Sena to collect waste from homes in the containment zones. Also, the state is unable to cart away waste to other states for scientific disposal because of travel restrictions,” an official said. 

Suchitwa Mission, in the draft sanitation policy, has recommended the municipalities and local bodies invest more in waste and wastewater treatment infrastructure to manage plastic accumulation in the lakes and sea effectively. “This can help prevent marine litter at source. Targeted programmes to remove plastic litter from lakes and prevent further depositing of the same would improve health and resilience. However, adequate waste treatment and disposal arrangements are necessary before starting such programmes so that waste removed from lakes does not end up polluting another place,” said an official of Suchitwa Mission. 

The per capita waste generation in municipalities varies from 364 grams to 456 grams. Highly urbanised local bodies generate above 450 grams per capita and the city corporation generates around 545 gm per capita. Domestic waste contributes 55 to 65 per cent of total waste while commercial establishments and markets are the second-highest generators. Based on this, the total waste generation projection for 2020 for the 93 urban local bodies in the state is estimated at 3,755 tonnes per day.

Just out of laziness, you may take your car out to the grocery store. But imagine if every family, every vehicle owner did the same thing? You can save fuel, and reduce air pollution by choosing to walk to the grocery store instead of driving there 

According to a National Geographic article, the total number of plastic toothbrushes being produced, used and thrown away each year has grown steadily since the first one was made in the 1930s.Though they aren’t as user-friendly as the plastic ones, eco-friendly, biodegradable alternatives made of bamboo and other wood varieties are available in the market 



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