Plastics: A Threat to Mankind, National Book Trust, India, 85 pp, Rs 40.00
A clean and pollution-free environment is what every individual wants. But today, with all kinds of non-biodegradable products flooding the market, one is forced to ponder if we are not sitting on a dangerous mound that may blow up any day. Plastics, like other non-bio-degradable products, gnaw into the body of not only humans but animals too, to pose a health hazard and is a unsustainable and undesirable product of finite and conventional fossil fuels. What is more, the plastics industry, with its eyes on monetary benefits, has been issuing advertisements saying that plastics save trees, plastics are safe, plastics are cheap and easy to maintain.
Today plastics have become an indispensable part of our daily life on account of being inexpensive and light. But plastics pose a big problem due to their inability to be disposed off easily. Plastics are used in many spheres of life. Plastics, when used in medical applications, are useful as in packaging but this practice is leading to an environmental crisis with the manufacturers of plastics unwilling to own responsibility for their life cycle and in their disposal. Instead, a highly complex network of economics, exploitation, oil imports and advertisements is being coalesced into a simplistic framework of convenience. An advertisement by the plastics industry reminds us: ?Life is incomplete without plastics.? But are they in a position to reply to the question that how easily they are poisoning the endocrine and respiratory systems simply to serve their vested interests.
The book begins by explaining what plastics are, how they are made and how contrary to reassurances from the plastics industry, plastics do not get recycled every time. In fact, they are recycled not more than three or four times and that too in poor conditions by the informal sector?the poor who save on the cost of recycling by risking their health and exposing themselves to a toxic process of recycling. We ourselves have seen that when plastics are not recycled, often they end up in the ground from where they leach toxins that contaminate the ground water. If burned, they create environmental and health hazards. Says the Chintan Group, ?In India, they (plastics) also take a journey down the drains, sewage lines and streams and along the innards of cows. That is why many municipal workers now concur that as plastics have become more popular, there is a sharp increase in blocked drains that they have to go and clean out.?
This book is a timely publication compiled by the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group which addresses issues of sustainable consumption and social equity with the objective or improving consumption choices and practices that benefit both human health and environment practices that are sustainable. The Chintan Group is engaged at the grassroots level in enlightening the community of consumers on a more sustainable future by undertaking research that can lead to a change with improvement in human and animal health apart from the environmental.
In India, plastics also take a journey down the drains, sewage lines and streams and along the innards of cows. That is why many municipal workers now concur that as plastics have become more popular, there is a sharp increase in blocked drains that they have to go and clean out.
In other words, plastics affect the ecology on earth. An educative and interesting chapter on what should be done to counter this offensive material?make use of less plastics, make information public, phase out the toxins?both PVC and additives, encourage alternative like glass jars, and give a face-lift to cities like Goa, had done on October 2, 2002, when a plastic-free campaign was launched along with a drive to pick up, collect and safely dispose of trash plastic bags and bottles. Students, activists, municipal workers, local citizens, people from hotel industry, panchayats, factories and service clubs participated actively by cleaning up areas on their own and by declining to use plastic bags. Even rallies, poster competitions and plastic waste collection drives were resorted to. In such a scenario, the best alternative for us is to use paper bags for eatables, vegetables and other edible commodities besides pattals or leaf plates when eating out in the open, while discarding the trash in the cans now provided everywhere.
As a responsible human being on the earth, the book says very aptly that we can overcome the plastic menace by adopting the 3 R?s??reduce, re-use, and recycle as this alone will eventually be beneficial to mankind in the long run.
(National Book Trust, India, A-5 Green Park, New Delhi-110016.)