KOCHI: Has the ban on single-use plastics (SUPs) imposed by the state government in January last year turned to be a damp squib? The latest rain fury visuals of Chittarpuzha river leaving behind huge piles of plastic debris on both sides of Ponkunam-Chirakkadavu bridge in Kottayam district could be attributed to Nature’s way of wreaking vengeance on the insensitivity of humans or an eyeopener to policymakers on the need for imposing a super plan on plastic waste management.
"People have to be aware of the situation. As a responsible citizen, every individual is responsible for such a scenario. Plastic pollution has been a problem for several years. People carelessly chuck into the river or lake the household plastic waste, instead of scientifically disposing it. Plastic pollution is indeed a grave issue that needs to be addressed," said Revenue Minister K Rajan.
Soon after the ban was in place, Covid hit the state which generated more plastic waste. With movement restricted due to the lockdown and zero gathering in public places, online food delivery and e-commerce platforms took a significant hit in the state. Not just plastic waste, the disposal of clinical waste such as masks and gloves is also a major issue.
“The ban on plastic was only in its initial phase. There were times when small-scale grocery shopkeepers would refuse to provide polythene bags at their shops. Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought back the use of single-use plastic again, “said Dr C M Joy, an environmentalist.
Due to the pandemic, the government allowed the use of plastic bags, disposal cups, and plates at the eateries, which were earlier banned. A single online food order brings with it a lot of small plastic containers. Not just the restaurant and hotel sector, the e-commerce platforms such as Myntra, Flipkart and Amazon also had an unnecessary amount of bubble wrap while dispatching a single item.
“The 2018 and 2019 floods saw huge piles of plastic waste strewn on roads and bridges. Whatever garbage was dumped into the river was regurgitated back by Nature. Agricultural land near Malayattur was flooded with plastic trash after the 2018 deluge. The very next day, I saw an earthmover dumping them back to the river. This exposes the public mindset in addressing a crisis,” said Dr Joy, who is also the president of the Kerala Nature Protection Council.
A recent report on the pollution in oceans revealed that if the situation continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. “The state needs a master plan on waste management and strict laws abiding by it. Each panchayat should have a scientific waste management plant segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, as well as clinical waste,” he said.
Revenue Minister K Rajan said that people carelessly throw household plastic waste into the river or lake, instead of disposing it off scientifically. Plastic pollution is indeed a grave issue that needs to be addressed.