The problem with plastic pollution is not as simple as we think. The option of Recycling, Reusing or Upcycling all the plastic products is not possible/ feasible/available everywhere. And the most effective way to curb this issue is to stop it right at the source.
Just like when a tap is running and the water is overflowing- the best way to solve this is to close that tap first, rather than looking out for a mop to clean the mess.
Hence, the best way to solve this plastic and waste crisis is to reduce the production itself. Now, this may not be possible or happen very rapidly for all the things because plastic is essentially being used in ways more than we can think of. But it can definitely be started with the things that can be manufactured without plastic, with ease. We need to especially focus on single-use plastic items.
For this to happen, companies have to start manufacturing such products without plastic then. But how would this happen? Plastic is a cheap and convenient material for the companies, why would they want to look for an alternative?
In simple words, this can happen in two ways-
- Companies get a sense of environmental responsibility
- Companies are forced to look for alternatives, because no one is buying plastic
Today, we will look at the second way.
We as consumers can alter the demand in the market. And the Companies will quickly adapt!
Companies produce all the goods for us, and we are the ultimate buyers. And we are the ones who DIMINISH as well as CREATE the “demand” of products. So, how do we kill the demand for plastic and essentially all the environment harming products and force the Companies to change their ways?
Step 1 – Switch!
All we have to do is, stop purchasing products that are made up of plastic, or come in plastic packaging. Easy? Not so easy!
Let’s analyze it and then decide.
If we stop purchasing plastic products, we need ALTERNATIVES then! It’s all about switching. We have to start purchasing more sustainable products instead of those made with plastic.
Now there could be 2 possible hindrances in this solution-
- Availability- Plastic being a cheap material is so widely being used in everything from furniture, kitchen goods, personal products, stationary and what not. Hence every company is using it and it could be hard to find brands who are not following this blind, environment destructive trend.
So, it can be difficult to find plastic alternatives at every place.
- Affordability- As said, plastic is cheap. Cheaper than glass, wood, metal. Hence all the plastic alternative products may not be very affordable for everyone. There are some alternatives where plastic can be avoided totally (example- a soap bar vs a plastic packaged body wash). In this case the alternative would be cheaper. In the other case, where plastic material has to be replaced with another material, it could become a little more expensive. Example- steel cutlery would be more expensive than plastic ones.
So we can’t adopt the ‘All in, All out’ approach here. Rather, according to our convenience and budget we can start eliminating the purchase of plastic products. And gradually, the problems of Availability and Affordability will also blur away. How? Keep reading to know.
Step 2 – Demand!
Imagine the scenario that we all slowly stopped purchasing plastic products. We are purchasing sustainable products and we are also start creating a demand for more such products in the market. This way, we not only support the existing sustainable brands who will now produce more, but seeing the rise of this new demand, more and more companies will also rush to fill in this demand.
There has been a big surge in Indian home-grown brands who are creating amazing products with local and sustainably sourced raw material. We no more have the dearth of options to choose from. [Read my last blog to know about some Brands that I have come across]
Moreover, this is the best time to go sustainable and support these brands and people in order to help revive our local economy and promote self-sufficiency.
Now, so many companies have also started manufacturing products without plastic- it has now become easier, more accessible to purchase sustainable products. And due to competition, there has been a decrease in prices too!
Hence the issues that we as consumers faced initially are also resolved.
Step 3 – Less Mess!
Now that we have eliminated the use of plastic from the first stage itself, we have less plastic to deal with and whatever is left, we can recycle/ reuse it with more ease. The problem with plastic is not that it is a bad material for all the goods. It is just that its uncontrolled production has made it impossible to manage it. As it is non-biodegradable, we need to have a system in place which prevents it from entering our landfills, water bodies and oceans. Plastic has to be brought to recycling units.
But since the volume of plastic is so huge, it is extremely difficult to segregate it and bring it to the recycling units (and we already do not have enough number of recycling facilities).
We need a circular economy where everything that gets produced, is later transformed to be used in making something else (example- plastic recycled and altered to be used as a raw material in other goods like furniture). And this way, very less items go to waste, and we are able to get maximum benefit out of each material and product ever manufactured because we are not adopting the “Use and Throw” mantra anymore. (I will talk more about Circular Economy in my next blog)
Hence, if we stop using plastic where we readily have alternatives present, we can reduce the amount of new plastic getting created in the world. All we have to do is, be a little more conscious of our purchases and CREATE THE DEMAND!