Flashback to the late 1980s.
Into my grandmother’s house, which was a traditional Kerala house called the nalukettu built in the 1940s. Early in the morning, the milkman would bring the milk in a glass bottle. The old man who had the job of buying the groceries, Ikka we all called him, would come in the morning to collect the list of items to be bought that day. Alongwith the list, he would be given a cloth bag for the vegetables, a braided thick nylon bag for the fish (which was a bit stinky in spite of the repeated washing) and if it was Friday, another braided nylon bag for the meat. Any dals that were on the list were wrapped in paper by the shopkeeper, and I particularly remember looking forward to the raw papad that was also wrapped in paper, which would be fried later that afternoon to be devoured crunchily by us kids! All kinds of liquids like oil or kerosene were bought in tin cans.
Now fast forward to today to the same place, my grandmother’s lovely antique home. The milk is delivered in a plastic packet. The vegetables are packed in small plastic bags, one bag for each variety of vegetable. The fish and meat are brought by Ikka in blue plastic bags. The dals come in packets of plastic. The papads come in packets of plastic. The oil and the kerosene comes in plastic bottles!!!
Do you see the difference???
Don’t you agree that our lifestyle is identical to my grandma’s house that I just described? In addition, most of us also get takeaway food at least once a week, that come in plastic boxes of all sizes and shapes along with plastic spoons and forks.
The first question: What changed?
The mass production of synthetic plastic started in the 1950s and we consume an estimated 381 million tonnes today. The demand for single-use items such as coffee cups and bottled water, means the world has manufactured more plastic in the last decade than in the whole of the previous century.
The second question: What happens to the plastic that we use and throw?
In places like my hometown, it created mountains of plastic on the roadside, before they decided to ban it. In places like Oman, which has an abundant coastline, it goes into the oceans! The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge island of plastic, located off the coast of California, and the alarming fact is that it continues to grow.
The third question: How long does it take to get rid of it?
Single use plastic cups – 50 years
Plastic Straws: 200 years
Plastic Bottles: 450 years
Plastic Bags: 500 Years
Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes. What we discard in 12 minutes hangs around in our universe for 500 YEARS!
The fourth question: What can I do?
- Say No
- Say No
- Say No
- Then Re-use
- Then Recycle
Ending with a very powerful, popular phrase – ÏTS ONLY ONE STRAW, SAID 7 BILLION PEOPLE.