More than one-third of the total plastic that goes into garbage daily from households could be just ‘dairy products packaging’ like milk and buttermilk (chhaach) pouches and cups of yoghurt (dahi) and icecream!
An interesting “garbage audit” done by an NGO, Chintan, which works specifically on solid waste management, found that 36 per cent of the total branded plastics collected in a sample of mixed garbage in Delhi is just “low-recyclable value cups and tetra packs” of Mother Dairy, Amul, etc. brands. These are majorly used to sell semi-solid dairy items like curd and lassi. Cities like Guwahati are also as vulnerable as big cities as almost all the milk and milk products that comes to the household comes in plastic packages. If we measure them in terms of monetary value, they are of course cheaper than other packaging alternatives available in the markets. But the long term impact of this is so immense that no amount of money can recover the damage done by plastic to the environment.
In Guwahati, the amount of these plastic recycled is negligible. This waste, apart from causing tremendous damage to the environment in the long run, also chokes our drains, floats on rivers and are left to rot on landfills harming animals that feed on them, in the short run.
Milk packets are made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which is a subclass of plastics. To be recycled, this type of plastic has to be compressed at a high temperature and in certain shape; else, they add no value. If such pieces do not reach the recycling units, it disintegrates into microplastics, that is, less than five millimetres in length, like the size of microbeads used in gels and toothpaste. Rain and wind carry these smaller fragments into drainage systems, which could lead to clogging. These can even enter waterbodies, and as a result, marine organisms may mistakenly consume them.
Considering this growing plastic pollution across the globe, it is high time we think and act on it. If we do not act now, it is feared we would be too late as this damage might be irreversible no matter how much we try in future. So it is time we act and say NO to plastic and contribute our bit to a better future.