The problem of plastic waste is quite massive in the world. According to a government report India produces around 26,000 tonnes of plastic every day and around 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide every year. Mass production of plastic that mostly began after the 1950s had led to the creation of around 8.3 metric tons of plastics mostly disposable products, around 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste and only a handful got recycled.

What is most horrific is the prediction that by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish, and by 2025 we may have one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in the sea reads the article in the newspaper ‘The Guardian ‘; a study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology says humans may be consuming anywhere from 39000 to 52000 microplastic particles a year; globally, 100,000 marine animals die every year as a result of plastic pollution according to WWF. Just take the example of Lucknow each year, 1000 cows die every year due to plastic consumption acc. to municipal corporation; now imagine What would be the situation in the whole of India.

A paper in New Phytologist, suggests that microplastics( particles with size ≤5,000um) breaks down into smaller nanoparticles( particles with a size ≤0.1 um) and the latter has a greater chance of absorption by plants, microplastics may also lead to the evaporation of water, making soil unhealthy for the plant; DOES BIODEGRADABLE PLASTICS ALSO CAUSE HARM TO PLANTS? Yes, according to the study large biodegradable plastics breaks down and become microplastics, therefore, becoming food for microbes in the form of carbon, as they need carbon to build up their cells, but they — — -need other nutrients also like nitrogen and if they don’t get it artificially they suck up plants nutrients causing what is known as ‘ NUTRIENT IMMOBILIZATION’

The picture looks quite grim, in fact black. Can we innovate and develop techniques that would eliminate this amount of plastic from nature? Is it possible? Yes, not only possible but it is already happening through various efforts of startups and organisations working in this field. Let’s take the example of photoprint, a Pune based enterprise founded by Siddhant Pai, which has partnered with Pune’s waste-pickers and is converting plastic waste into filaments for 3D printing; another example is of Pom Pom, a web-based recycling platform that helps people to dispose of recyclable waste responsibly, Pom Pom also pays you back for your waste management initiative, in other words, it is an advanced form of kabadi wala; it currently serves in South Delhi. Then there is Karma recycling, that buys your old electronic device in any condition and recycles it for you; a very prominent example is that of prof. R Vasudevan who created the technique of using shredded plastic in the construction of roads, not only these roads are stronger, the amount of plastic that gets recycled in the process is enormous and it saves the government a lot of money. According to a report in Hindustan Times government saved around thirty thousand rupees per kilometre of road construction, as earlier 10 tons of bitumen was being used to construct one kilometre of the road but with a new technique, one kilometre of the road can be constructed using nine tonnes of bitumen and one tonne of plastic waste thereby saving money.

Many young entrepreneurs like Gujarat based entrepreneur Manish Kothari, owner and managing director of Rhino Machines, a project consultancy firm, presents Rhino Brick, made from foundry dust(high-quality silica sand) and plastic waste. As opposed to clay bricks, Rhino bricks are 2.5 times stronger and 25 per cent lighter with a reasonable price of Rs 10 per piece, in fact, this brick also saves a lot of water as no water is used in its manufacturing and interestingly, walls built with these bricks do not need to be cured with water. IS IT POSSIBLE FOR PEOPLE TO RECYCLE, UPCYCLE PLASTIC WITH MINIMAL COST AT THEIR HOMES? OR WORK OF GETTING GOLD OUT OF PLASTIC SHOULD BE LEFT TO SOME GEEKY ENTREPRENEURS? No, not at all it is very much possible to create wealth out of plastic at the comfort of our homes, sell it and earn some bucks as done by LOMAS DHUNGELa 35-year-old science and mathematics teacher at a government senior secondary school in Sikkim’s Makha village, under his project ‘Hariyo Makha — Sikkim against pollution( Hariyo means green)’, he began working with his students and later expanded in the bigger region, he made the covers for 4,000 school notebooks by upcycling 55,000 pieces of plastic and generated revenue for the education of those who can’t afford it. Is it required to be old enough to do such acts of upcycling? Can a fifth-grader also help in this novel cause? Yes, of course, this is what 11-year-old fifth-grader Shabnam Cs from Srirangapatna, Karnataka does. According to news website ‘ The better India’; she was collecting discarded plastic bottles for the past three years and turned them into beautiful plant holders, in one year she has distributed over 1000 of these.

This all should give us hope, a hope for a better future as said by ALBERT EINSTEIN, ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’. BUT WHAT OPPORTUNITY LIES IN HUGE PILES OF WASTE PLASTIC LITTERING THE PLANET? That opportunity is of innovation and coming up with creative ideas that would transform’ heaps of plastic waste’ into ‘heaps of wealth’. We need to recycle, upcycle, innovate and think creatively to control and even put an end to one of the greatest challenges that humanity has come across. Even a small step by each of 7 billion people on the planet would amount to 7 billion steps at a time and even that would also only amount to scratching the surface of humanity’s real potential.

source: aayush-goyal.medium,com

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