Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Pathways - Project 4 - Tick Tick to Kick

I was 10 years old then. We were all watching a magic show, as a family. The magician pulled a lot of plastic straws one after the other from his mouth… I clapped my hands in excitement, jumped up and down. We were wowed by his trick.

(Also read: Pathways Ice Breaker - Who am I?)

Last week, I saw a video in Youtube. I saw a guy pulling out plastic straws from the mouth… but, this time I was not wowed… I was not excited… I was not jumping up and down. In fact, I was shocked … because the straw was pulled out from the mouth of a turtle… and it was profusely bleeding from the mouth… and moaning in pain.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and Guests,

Plastic production has increased 20 fold since 1964. Despite the growing demand, only 5% of plastics are recycled effectively, while 40% end up in landfill and oceans. Much of the remainder is burned to generate energy.

According to a new Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, there will be more plastic in the ocean by 2050, than fish. The world's oceans are clogged with plastic debris - plastic spoons, plastic plates, plastic covers and fishing nets.

Every year, nearly 8 million metric tones of plastic pollution enter the oceans from the coastal countries. Thats equivalent of dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

In 2014, researchers from Gujarat did a post-mortem on the 1-ton carcass of a whale, which got washed away to the shore. They found four large plastic bags in the whale’s stomach. It appeared that the plastic had blocked the whale’s digestive system, which caused its death.

Why should you worry about it?  

You may think “Oh! Who cares if these species become extinct”. Wait a second… There are multiple ways in which plastics can creep from the oceans to the human food chain: The plastics in the ocean get disintegrated into smaller pieces over the times and they become what is called “micro-plastics”. Fishes mistake them for food and consume them,. Eventually, plastics fill their digestive system and they die. Or, a carelessly discarded plastic bag can break down in the sea, especially in warmer waters, and the process releases toxic chemicals that may be digested by fish. When these fishes end up in the human food chain, we get impacted too.

Whats the story in India? 

In 2017, Indians generated about 72 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, according to an ICRIER estimate. Out of this, about 10% was plastic. The problem was that India was mismanaging over 80% of its waste, while in the U.S. it was only 2%. We just throw plastics into regular trash bins or on the road.

What can we do about it? 

Tamilnadu Government has imposed a ban on using plastic items such as carry bags, plates, cups, flags, small sachets used in packaging water. Clock is already ticking and the ban will be imposed from the 1st of Jan 2019, to kick plastic out. However, the ban excludes using disposable plastic for packaging milk, curd, oil and medical utilities. So, there will be still some plastic around us… in our everyday life. How can we help the government and save our environment from plastics? I would like to share a 3 step segregation process that we follow at my home, to handle plastic:

Consolidate - We have a separate trash bin at home to put all the plastic waste - right from chocolate wrappers to empty oil cans to faulty mobile chargers, go in there.

Separate: Once every month, we identify plastic trash items that can be sold in the local waste paper mart and convert items such as water bottles, milk cover, broken mobile chargers into cash. We keep the rest of the plastic items such as thin plastic bags, chocolate wrappers, tooth brushes etc., at home. The moment someone buys your plastic waste, you can be rest-assured that it will be recycled. 

Facilitate safe disposal: We handover the plastic trash which cannot be sold - to the municipality conservation worker. He/she ensures that it is handled separately and sent for recycling. Most of the times, government uses such plastic waste for manufacturing cement or for laying roads.

(Also read: Pathways - Project 2 - E = M3R2)


All of us have a role to play in plastic waste management. Roz Savage, a famous ocean rower says “It is not right to manufacture billions of objects that are used for a matter of minutes and are then with us for centuries”. My request to all of you is to do CSF - Consolidate / Separate / Facilitate Safe Disposal of plastics, in addition to coming to CSF (Chennai Speakers Forum). We can’t wait… time is running out… to kick plastic out.

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