India shares a very sensitive relationship with the culture of ‘bans’. Be it the recent firecracker sales ban in Delhi or the ban on certain food items, there have always been concerns raised on the implications of these bans, when they fail to address the underlying issue.
For instance, the firecracker sales ban failed to avoid the annual phenomenon of smog, encapsulating the Delhi-NCR region. Why? Because, bursting firecrackers during Diwali is not the core or the only reason behind the smog. In retrospect, while the intent behind the ban was to safeguard the environment and public health, it did not manage to address various other factors that lead to air pollution.
A similar case in point is the recent blanket ban on packaged plastic drinking water bottles, to be made operational in the State of Maharashtra from March 2018. But, are we prepared for life after this ban? Has there been a thorough evaluation of viable alternative options for packaging water, if the currently used PET water bottles are banned from public use?
Imposing a total ban without having a safe substitute in place will not help serve its purpose but may only create additional chaos. The most promoted and advocated alternative to PET water bottles is glass. Glass requires higher energy for the manufacturing process as it is made from sand at temperatures above 1500-degree Celsius. Apart from sand, the manufacturing process also utilizes a significant amount of water, leading to depletion of natural resources.
The amount of water used for sterilization of per glass case is approximately 15-20 litres an it will not be viable to use millions of litres of water just for cleaning glass bottles in a nation where we face draught conditions, practically every alternate year.
Even after spending huge amount of water for cleaning it will not ensure the complete sterilization of the glass. This process will lead to spread of number of gastroenterological diseases especially in kids.
On the other hand, PET is 100% recyclable, and being BPA-free is absolutely safe for food contact. Many types of goods like blankets and dry fit gym wear is manufactured from recycled PET bottles. Minimum wastage can be ensured through effective recycling by adopting global practices like incentivizing the recycling through devices like reverse vending machines.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to identify and understand the real problem behind the serious environmental squalor, which is irresponsible behaviour and littering. Lack of recycling facilities and improper waste management practices has amounted to the use of large landfill space, air and water pollution.
For waste management solutions to become a success, there needs to be an overall change in public behaviour. Whether glass or plastic or steel, if we don’t stop littering and start recycling, keeping our environment clean would continue to be a far fetching dream. Behaving responsibly and being empathetic towards the environment can prove as the long-term solution to tackle climate change.