World Oceans Day was celebrated on 8th June 2019. However, while recognizing our oceans, we must also acknowledge the severe damages we have caused and the steps that must be taken in order to repair it.
According to recent estimates, there are currently approximately 51 trillion microplastic particles choking the oceans across the globe. In addition to this, 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste is washed into the oceans every year. This colossal amount of waste is transferred into the oceans in a myriad of ways.
Some are blown in from the land due to waste disposal systems being mismanaged, some are the waste that is dumped in rivers, which eventually join the oceans, and some are dumped directly into the ocean from ships and offshore oil and gas platforms.
The impact of this waste is realised only beyond national boundaries. There are five immense “garbage patches” that have formed in the oceanic gyres, each of which entails thousands of square kilometres filled with suspended microscopic plastic particles. The consequences of this are grave as it affects the entire marine ecosystem. Fish, seabirds, and other marine creatures that ingest plastic particles experience severe digestive problems, intestinal injury, and eventually, death.
A majority of plastic in the oceans is generated by Asia, and a large proportion of this comes solely from India. In the last few decades, there has been a sudden increase in the amount of waste, especially plastic, generated by India. Most rivers in the country are extremely choked with plastics, and all of these rivers lead directly either to the Bay of Bengal or to the Arabian Sea. The most harmful are the Indus, which carries the second highest amount of plastic debris in the world, and the Ganga, which carries the sixth highest amount of plastic debris, both of which flow directly into the oceans.
One of the ways in which this rampant plastic pollution can be controlled is through the act of Plastic Neutrality.
Plastic Neutrality is a concept that aims at offsetting an individual’s plastic footprint, which is the amount of plastic an individual consumes, such that the net value of the footprint is zero. This is done either by individually recycling the plastic that one consumes or by supporting and contributing to organisations that recover and reprocess the waste produced by communities.
There are many organisations, such as rePurpose, that are helping individuals go Plastic Neutral. RePurpose carries out this process in multiple ways.
It calculates your unique plastic footprint and guides you on how to make changes in your everyday habits so that you can reduce your impact on the environment.
It also helps you offset your footprint, where you can donate Rs. 35 for every kg of plastic that you consume and this money is redirected to waste management organisations such as Saahas Zero Waste.
Thus, you can go Plastic Neutral not only by reducing and recycling the plastic you consume but also by supporting organisations that recover and manage waste that is equivalent to your plastic footprint.
SZW uses the money contributed by individuals to ensure that all the waste produced by any community reaches its correct end destination. Plastics are collected and reprocessed so that none of it reaches a landfill, a river, or an ocean.
The trillions of microplastics that are choking our oceans today seem like a daunting challenge for any one person to tackle by themselves. But small changes in individual lifestyles, such as taking action to go Plastic Neutral, can slowly pave the way towards making our oceans healthy once again.