The dead whale had a mes­sage in its tummy

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Editor Padma

When the world’s largest mam­mal was washed ashore on Juhu beach, Mum­bai, mil­lions across In­dia read the news and talked, tweeted, up­dated their Face­book pages, and felt sorry for it. I searched on the Net for more news. The front page re­sults on Google gave me a shock. It wasn’t just one whale in Juhu; there were over 40 in Tamil Nadu. Not only that, in the last two months many dead whales had floated across to shores around the globe in­clud­ing in cities across the United States, Eng­land, and Aus­tralia.

Puz­zled, I searched for a rea­son and soon re­alised that the fishes that were dy­ing on the shores were bring­ing a mes­sage for the hu­man race. ‘The plas­tic that you have dis­carded over the years is ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in the oceans, mix­ing in our foods, and killing us. One day, it will get you too...’

I read a bit more about plas­tic and learnt that a dis­turb­ing an­nounce­ment was made by World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF), who found that al­most a third of all the plas­tic used by hu­mans leaked into the en­vi­ron­ment. If the plas­tic is not reused, re­cy­cled, put in land­fill, or eaten by an an­i­mal, it ends up in the sea. The WEF re­port fur­ther said: ‘If no ac­tion is taken, the plas­tic in sea is ex­pected to in­crease to two truck-fulls per minute by 2030 and four truck-fulls per minute by 2050. In a busi­ness-as-usual sce­nario, the ocean is ex­pected to con­tain one tonne of plas­tic for ev­ery three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plas­tics than fish.’

In­ter­est­ingly, we all know where this plas­tic is com­ing from. Plas­tics are used to make count­less ev­ery­day prod­ucts – from bot­tles to auto bumpers, from note­book cov­ers to toys... al­most ev­ery se­cond thing in the house is plas­tic. Worse still, ev­ery house­hold to­day is gen­er­at­ing more plas­tic trash than ever, and very lit­tle of it gets re­cy­cled. Plas­tic bot­tles ly­ing in the gut­ter, gro­cery bags tan­gled on tree branches, packed-food wrap­pers scut­tling across the ground on a windy day are com­mon-enough sights, es­pe­cially in In­dia. Most of us know that plas­tics and their by-prod­ucts are lit­ter­ing our streets, roads, and wa­ter­ways, con­tribut­ing to health prob­lems in hu­mans and an­i­mals on land and life within the oceans. Plas­tics do not eas­ily de­grade. They may break down, but only into smaller pieces, which in fact is more dan­ger­ous.

Yet, even as we grap­ple with the threats from plas­tic to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, mak­ing a few sim­ple life­style changes can be our bit to­wards sav­ing the whale, the en­vi­ron­ment, and the hu­man race in the long run. The best so­lu­tion is to pre­vent more plas­tic from reach­ing the ocean, and it can be done only if the plas­tic waste is re­duced at its source.

As con­sumers of mul­ti­ple prod­ucts, we may start be­com­ing aware of pack­ag­ing and buy items that use less of plas­tic. Skip the plas­tic bags, in­clud­ing zip­pered pouches, boxes, and trays used for foods and fruits. In­vest in re­us­able wa­ter bot­tles and say no to straws. Talk to your child into avoid­ing plas­tic toys (they’ll love you for this when they grow up).

As we live in an era of con­ve­nience, we find it con­ve­nient to throw things away when we are done with them. How­ever, we need to stop look­ing at plas­tic as dis­pos­able and need to view plas­tic items as durable things to hold on to, re­use, and re­cy­cle.

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