Updated: Mar 17, 2020
We are so busy with evaluating the rapid growth of the food and beverage delivery applications in India that we have forgotten that it comes with certain costs. A recent statement by Swiggy stated that it delivers 1.5MN orders monthly. To break it down, it delivers 50,000 orders a day. In a country like ours, with the bandwidth and ever rising purchasing power of the middle class group, it is pretty feasible. Now, on the contrary, understand this, 50,000 orders are delivered majorly in single used packaging items each day. That simply means 1.5MN single used plastic/paper products which cannot be recycled are used for delivery through ONE APPLICATION ALONE! Now imagine how much waste 5 delivery apps can account for!
Do not get me wrong, I am in complete support of the online delivery system and is in completely awe of the idea Swiggy Stores but there needs to be a line and the consumer needs to draw it.
To my surprise, around 25 states have implemented the single use plastic* ban including Maharashtra. Everyone thinks that it’s a bold step taken by the government but when it comes to implementing it on ourselves, we shy away!
*Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These items are things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging.
Let’s understand how we are just evading the problem and not tackling it. Most of us thought plastic ban would be the solution to the pollution problem but all it did was to create misinformation in the market. Due to half information, the consumers are being fooled as people started labelling their stuff “Bio-degradable” or “Compostable” or “More than 50 microns”. To the laymen like us, we thought the brands are taking a great step towards the green future but to my disappointment, it was all a hoax.
A lot of people still don’t know what Biodegradable means. For most people, it’s just a fancy label seen every now and then on a product at the store. However, as our ever increasing population adds more and more trash into the ground each year, this term and concept becomes more important.
“Biodegradable means that a certain object or product has the ability of being decomposed by living things or bacteria.”
So some products can be simply thrown into soil and buried and they may completely decompose in 30 days to a few months. Sure, it may seem long, but when you consider that products made out of plastic and paper take over a thousand years to decompose, you can start seeing the value in Biodegradable Products. Biodegradable products are more efficient and eco-friendly. Companies that manufacture biodegradable products often use renewable resources and produce lower emissions as well.
Now, to burst the bubble, nothing in India is biodegradable! Worldwide scientists and Food MNCs are behind this problem since early 2000s and have not found a concrete solution. There are soil based solutions which are biodegradable but are not food grade and vice versa. The one which is actually the solution is not price sensitive so the market cannot adapt. It is a never ending problem. So technically, all the brands are selling their products all over a lie. It’s a lie which is never questioned in the market. I am grateful to the government for implementing the ban but it has not really solved the problem
Soon after the ban, we started getting plastic bags which are compostable, products which are good for the environment. “Compostable simply means being able to be used as compost.”
Compost (for example dead leaves or manure) is decaying organic substances which can be used as fertilizer.
The issue with these products remain the same, we need to compost everything which is “compostable” otherwise it creates the same amount of waste as normal banned items. Many waste management companies have started opening their composting sites but with India being so vast, we cannot even complete 0.0001% of the entire waste generated. So another option is out!
Out of the 3 options given to the market till now, this one is the best out of the worst. Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.
Not many people would know this but India has one of the biggest waste management network. And it’s all because of our so called raddi walas. Big companies have taken the initiative or rather government made them take the initiative (ERP) to recycle the same amount of plastic each company produces.
But this does not solve our problem either, most of the products are recyclable but do we recycle them? Does it reach the end and become a new product? Less than 10% of the total waste collected is actually in a state to be recycled, hence, still not feasible.
Reusable – The worldwide approach to tackle the problem
There is a fourth option as well, what India was always known for. Take an example of our ancestors who used everything in reusable products e.g. – Milkmen or take an example of our wide chain of Dabba walas – The same dabba is washed and used every day and given to the same person. India has the solution to the worldwide problem with a network already vast 100MN people. The only problem in this approach is our mind-set. We have become so used to the make-use-dispose economy that we never think twice before throwing anything. The solution what many people are suggesting – make-use-reuse-reuse-keepreusingtillyoucant –recycle – and the cycle starts again, making a complete circle. Have we ever discarded a Tupperware bottle? No, because we know that we need to reuse it, it comes at a cost. This is the most expensive and inconvenient option for the consumers but we need to do it, for the betterment of the future. Let’s try and eradicate as much single use products as possible from our lives, All we need to do is take a sincere step towards carrying a reusable bottle (Tupperware), Carry a reusable tiffin, say no to straws or anything which you won’t use again. Each day if you adopt the practice, you will save 0.5KG of plastic going to waste – 183KGs in a year, through one individual!