Plastic is rampant everywhere. Its a legitimate threat to our planet and to everyone’s future. It has found a way to sneak into the deepest parts of our oceans and further into outer space, killing thousands of lives along the way. And who is the responsible for this? Of course we humans are. With climate change gaining phase, its important we take action on all fronts. If we don’t act soon enough, there will be no turning back. Its an urgent crisis already, adding a feather on cap to the climate change crisis.
Concerned citizens, activists, scientists, students, teachers and professors are addressing the issue on their respective platforms and using the ways they could think of.
One such attempt to address the issue was the workshop held on 22nd May’19 at the US Consulate-Chennai, India by Dr.Katharine Owens on the topic, “Re-imagining Chennai’s Beaches.”
Her fellow panelist Mathew José from ‘Paperman,’ an organisation that helps the recycling companies meet their supply gap, addressed the issue from his perspective and also made sure every voice in the room gets heard.
The attendees were mostly architecture students and environment students. Such a passionate crowd to begin with.
On the other hand, as a Fulbright scholar and marine debris expert, Dr.Owens gave her in depth analysis on the marine debris crisis, citing to couple of studies that inspired her as well as her own studies.
Speaking of her own experience on the overwhelming debris she said, “scuba divers helped with the clean up in Locals beach, Kerala. Each time they came to the surface, they could bring only as much as they could hold. With each dive, they came up with more debris. That’s how bad we are polluting the seas. Its the case worldwide. Not even the Mariana trench is spared. ”
She also mentioned how ghost nets from the fishing industry are being silent killers of marine life.
After sharing her experience, she was keen to know each of our experiences with plastic pollution. And we shared our views and the possible change we would like to see.
As we moved on to the next phase of the workshop, we were split into four teams, nine members each. We were supposed choose a specific topic addressing plastic wastes, discuss within our group members and work on the problem, impact and possible approach to tackle the problems and find a feasible solution.
Our team chose the topic “Ignorance,” whilst focusing on single use plastics, sources, usage, seggregation, the complexity involved as problems, whereas beach cleanups, waste management, recycling, possible policy making & implementation and alternatives as solutions. Also we stressed on the ways to phase out plastic wastes. As we listed our ideas, one of our team members Rinsha, an architecture student, brought our thoughts to life on the charts.
These are the possible solutions our team came up with:
*Plastic wastes should be reduced. Instead of using single use plastic, people should start opting for alternatives.
*People should use their voting rights wisely, and vote for the candidates who propose better environmental policies and are better for everyone’s future.
*Instead of collecting shells from the beaches, people should start collecting debris instead. Instead of using plastic disposable bags, she would use jute bags for picking debris off the beaches.
*Mixed wastes (e. g. plastic packaging with metal in it, cloth bag with plastic in it, etc.) should be eradicated to facilitate effective waste segregation.
*Plastic production units should be transitioned into plastic recycle units. Government or intersted organisations should start incubation cells or training prorammes in helping businesses to transition, the small businesses especially.
*More tax on plastic manufacturers and subsidies for alternatives (cloth bags, cardboard packages, etc.) should be initiated.
*Indivuduals should start exploring DIY (Do It Yourselves) possibilities.
*Policy makers should promote innovative ideas for plastic alternatives.
* The linear system of production-usage-waste-debris should change to a cycle of production-usage-recycle-production-usage-recycle.
*More recycle banks are needed. Some sort of reward system should alsl be implemented to kindle people’s interest in recycling.
The other teams who came up with own their ideas and suggestions on plastic wastes & the way forward.
In the end we all agreed to the point that, all of us, be it the governments or corporates or scientific community or students or professionals or daily wagers or the commoners, everyone should do their part for a better world. Awareness and individual responsibility are the keys for a better world.
Not to forget, the officials from the US consulate also seemed very much interested. They grasped the seriousness of the plastic crisis and have pledged to do their part as well in bringing out the change.
It was refreshing to be part of such a passionate group that strives to do their bit to bring out change in the society.
Big thanks to everyone of them. Its been a honour to have been a part of this amazing crowd.