Author: Mr Chanlang Ki Bareh
Email: [email protected]
Plastics are obscene! By now, everyone is slightly aware of the damage caused by plastic-laden waste to the environment. To fight against the non-biodegradable plastics, the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) in co-ordination with the Syiem of Hima Mylliem announced the ban of plastic in all Syiemship, Sirdarship, Lyndohship, Wahadadarship, and, other areas within its territorial jurisdiction through a phase-wise manner via order NO.DC/RBF/XXVIII/138/2019/2, Dated the 13th September 2019. This prohibition order not to use plastic anymore is to avoid health hazard on all life forms and in line with the Environment Protection Act 1986 and The Plastics Waste Management Rules, 2016.
Plastics have been convenient tools for all of us; in fact, a lifestyle we all choose to live comfortably! Imagine if there are 500 sellers in Iewduh (Bara Bazaar), using about 50 plastics, pouches, polybags, etc., in a single day. How much can plastic waste generate in a Month or Year? Does a question also arise as to whether these plastics are even recycling appropriately? As there is no defined timeline to stop plastics uses, it is high time that such acts are enacted.
Indeed, the local vendors and sellers and even general citizen are raising concerns over the discontinuation of plastics uses like; How can we packed liquid-based goods/items in “Sla lamet” (a natural leaf) or banana leaf? Why won’t you stop the other ready-made packaging items of big companies? What will be a viable alternative? Will, the customers, stop using their personal plastics bought online? What’s the penalty for the violator? People are going helter-skelter about this ban.
It is the joined co-operation of all the five stakeholders, The Government, Plastics Manufacturer Industry, The Activists-Environmentalist and finally, the Buyers-Sellers to tackle the problems at hand. Firstly, The Government at the local level should start providing clear-cut objectives for each issue which is anticipated by the people. Multiple states have announced a ban on the manufacture, supply, storage of polythene bags and other plastic items while few states have partially banned. A solution like that of Maharashtra Government, allowing the use of 50 microns is not helpful at all. The thickness of the plastic bags determines its toughness; 50 micron is the thickness of the plastic. The denser the plastic, the higher would be its cost. The 50-micron thickness for plastic sheets is most likely to increase the value of goods.
Plastics do not degrade thin or thick; a plastic bag takes an average of 500-1000 years to decay totally. In between, it breaks into small pieces which stick in the soil. Higher micron bag determines the strength of the bag break into smaller pieces. Thin bag breakdown easily and mixing with the land which seriously deteriorates flora and fauna. The logic is if the plastic is thicker, the animal won’t consume it directly. Whereas, Lightweight plastic bags (less than 50 Microns) are blown into trees and other plants and can be mistaken for flowers by animals affecting their diet. Plastic bags break down, but they never biodegrade. As a result, any toxic additives they contain directly affect the endocrine systems of organisms, which control almost every cell in the body.
If a state is to adopt a ban, it should be based on sound principles taking into account the viable alternatives to curb plastics uses. Hope there will be stringent enactment of the new regulation and no relaxation in the future with regards to the uses of various plastic types. There should be crystal clear path and objectives with a viable solution. It might as well follow with a hefty fine.
It would also need every Individual’s help; Activist and Environmentalist across the board; Municipal inspectors and a mechanism (watchdogs) to keep an eye on the offenders and punish the culprits. Hopefully, a stringent regulation at the legislative assembly. The Administration will also have to keep an eye on possible lobbying of black-market plastics since there are powerful industry forces that are ever ready to lobby against such gauge, there by, obstructing both the administrative and the executive.
The Administration should also look into the matter about the exemption guidelines of the big companies like plastic packing eateries, plastic water bottle, etc. Heavy campaigning on the health hazard poses by plastics will be rewarding since most of the people are partially aware of its consequences. Also looking at the example of a few countries across the globe that have successfully banned the uses of plastics will provide an alternative. If proper guidelines with clear-cut objectives are set, it wouldn’t be hard to implement it all over the state. As ordinary citizen, one can always start at home or schools, by reducing, refusing, reusing and recycling, so, Think, Act and Save the planet earth.