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Earth Day: Rethinking Plastic for a Sustainable Future

Bhubaneswar: As we commemorate Earth Day this year, the spotlight falls on a pressing global concern: the battle between ‘Planet vs Plastics.’ What was once hailed as a revolutionary material has now evolved into a formidable threat, with tons of plastic waste inundating our oceans, polluting our lands, and endangering our wildlife.

Plastics have seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, becoming ubiquitous in the packaging of everything from food to household goods. However, the proliferation of single-use plastics has sparked a crisis, with water bodies, landfills, and drainage systems bearing the brunt of this environmental menace. The sight of mountains of plastic waste towering over our cities is a grim reminder of the urgent need for action.

Despite concerted efforts to curb the use of single-use plastics, progress has been slow. Some states in India have implemented bans, yet enforcement remains a challenge. In November 2023, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation took a step towards plastic waste management by deploying three waste management machines near the Sainik School dumping yard. However, the battle against plastic waste continues, with major dumping yards like Daruthenga in Bhubaneswar posing significant environmental threats.

In response to the escalating crisis, the government of Odisha launched the ‘Plastic Free Picnic’ campaign, aiming to raise awareness among students, youth, and the public about the need to keep popular picnic spots free from plastic waste. Additionally, the government issued an order in March 2024 prohibiting the use of single-use plastic within the boundaries of sanctuaries, national parks, and tiger reserves in the state, in a bid to safeguard biodiversity.

Despite these initiatives, the question looms: Is it feasible to eradicate plastics from our lives entirely?

Neelima Mishra, a vocal advocate for recycling and plastic waste management, emphasizes the need for responsible management of single-use plastics. “Plastics have undoubtedly revolutionized our lives, but their indiscriminate use has led to environmental degradation,” she states.

Mishra advocates for a comprehensive approach that includes proper disposal, recycling, and the implementation of extended producer responsibility. She emphasizes the importance of holding brands and companies accountable for the lifecycle of their products, urging them to adopt sustainable practices and incentivize plastic recycling.

However, the onus is not solely on corporations; individuals must also play their part in protecting the environment. Mishra underscores the importance of behavioral change, urging people to dispose of plastic waste responsibly and embrace eco-friendly alternatives.

As we confront the ‘Planet v Plastics’ dilemma, Earth Day serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for collective action to safeguard our planet for future generations. “It is a call to arms for governments, businesses, and individuals alike to unite in the fight against plastic pollution and preserve the fragile ecosystems that sustain life on Earth,” she concludes.

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