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Say no to plastic: Bring back the jhola
Plastic is not biodegradable. Take a drive and see these blowing across open spaces. See these entangled in fences and electric lines: flutter, like the tattered flags of a defeated army, from bushes, trees, TV antennae – time to carry the Jhola.
ON A long drive recently from the capital city to a city in Punjab one could not help but be overwhelmed by the sight that assaulted ones senses. Having driven this way ever since childhood one had fond memories of lush green fields and scenes of the minutiae of daily life of the rural folk as they go about their daily chores.
The recent drive was, however, undertaken after a very long time and it was difficult not to notice the changes. The roads are much better, the road signs have more visibility, there seems to be more prosperity amongst the people but there is also that curse of modern living, everywhere.
Yes, I am talking of the ubiquitous plastic bags. For kilometer after kilometer one watched vast open spaces with eerie shapes waving about in it. At times it felt as though one was watching a scene from a movie about apocalypse and after. These are some of the millions of plastic bags we use on a daily basis. We use plastic bags and discard without a second thought about where these go eventually. Plastic, as we all know by now, is not biodegradable so what happens to these wispy thin plastic bags without which we can no longer visualise carrying on our daily lives?
Well, to find out take a drive and see these blowing across open spaces and see these entangled in fences and electric lines. They flutter, like the tattered flags of a defeated army, from bushes, trees, TV antennae and anything else these can get entangled in. Take a look at the canals that come on the way and see the bags entangled in the waterweeds along the banks. These bags choke the waterways and the drains. You can see these amongst the piles of rubbish that dot our urban and rural landscapes. This is where our cattle and other animals ingest these while foraging for food and then die a slow painful death. The same fate befalls the marine species. In fact so wide spread is the menace of plastic that camels die after ingesting them in the unforgiving deserts of Arabia, cows die on our streets and already endangered species die in our oceans worldwide.
The issue of the pollution of our environment can seem overwhelming to most of us but giving up hope and not taking any action is not an option any longer. The planet is warming up, its water bodies and spaces are turning into a rubbish dump and it will take a lot of foot soldiers to turn things around. Let us be those foot soldiers.
One way to make a small but important contribution is to say ‘No’ to plastic. If each and every one of us could make the shift from using plastic bags to using bags made of bio-degradable bags or better still re-usable bags then the effect could be tremendous. Ten people saying no to ten plastic bags when doing their grocery shopping at one of the supermarket means 100 bags prevented from invading our environment.
In many countries the supermarkets charge a small surcharge for every plastic bag that the customer requests. This should work wonderfully in our country as Indians by nature are prudent spenders would not want to pay each time they use a plastic bag. The supermarkets also sell bags made of jute that the customer can buy and reuse every time they shop. These bags also serve as free advertising space for the supermarket as hundreds of shoppers carry them around the cities and towns. In fact the supermarkets compete with one another to reduce the use of plastic. They post weekly or monthly figures outside their stores and customers get satisfaction from patronising stores that use the least plastic.
This brings one to the subject of the Jhola. In India, we have till very recently, used these reusable cloth bags to carry our shopping. So why did we give up this wonderful practice to pick up environmentally destructive practice of using plastic bags?  Surely, the convenience that plastic provides is a deceptive advantage if we take into account the price we pay in terms of environmental damage?  It is time now to reclaim the Jhola and restore it to its place of pride. India needs to relearn its earlier practices of reduce, reuse, recycle. Keeping a few bags in ones car or scooter is not such difficult thing after all. For our younger generation we need to make the Jhola cool. It should become a statement of ones environment friendly credentials to be seen carrying these bags. Make them cool, give them some ishtyle and the young will surely embrace them. If Sharukh Khan were to be seen carrying one then that would ensure that at least half of India adopts the habit!
Some bookshops and high-end shops already provide bags made from recycled paper to its customers. We need to take this further so that using these bags becomes a matter of pride. So, go on do your bit and say ‘No’ the next time you are offered a plastic bag.
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Science has now found the answer to disposal problems of plastics. OXO-BIODEGRADABLE PLASTIC This new technology produces plastic which degrades by a process of OXO-degradation. The technology is based on a very small amount of pro-degradant additive being introduced into the manufacturing process, thereby changing the behaviour of the plastic. Degradation begins when the programmed service life is over (as controlled by the additive composition) and the product is no longer required. The plastic does not just fragment, but will be consumed by bacteria and fungi after the additive has reduced the molecular structure to a level which permits living micro-organisms access to the carbon and hydrogen. It is therefore “biodegradable.” This process continues until the material has biodegraded to nothing more than CO2, water, and humus, and it does not leave fragments of petro-polymers in the soil. Oxo-biodegradable plastic passes all the usual ecotoxicity tests, including seed germination, plant growth and organism survival (daphnia, earthworms) tests carried out in accordance with ON S 2200 and ON S 2300 national standards. Specimens of oxo-biodegradable LDPE (low-density polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene) and PS (polystyrene) have been tested and demonstrated under the conditions of test to be fully compliant with the current European food contact material requirements. And US Food & Drugs Administration requirements . Oxo-biodegradable bags are being bought and distributed by the UK Soil Association and UK supermarkets, and used for direct contact with food products. Oxo-biodegradable plastic products are now being used by the leading UK supermarkets, Tesco and the Co-op . In Portugal the country’s largest retail group, Sonae, has adopted oxo-biodegradable plastic carrier bags for their Continente, Mondelo and Mondelo Bonjour supermarket chains. Other major users include Marriott, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, BUPA, News International, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Walmart. Oxo-biodegradable plastic is ideal for frozen food packaging, as it can be kept for extended periods at low temperature, and will then quickly degrade when it becomes a waste product at normal temperatures. The interested readers can find more details about this type of plastic on or The products made with this technology are available in India. For more information visit
Delhi & Mumbai make it to the Forbes. First let's try to find out the types of rubbish materials generated by commoners (1) Rightly pointed out that tons of plastic bags on a daily basis are generated and discarded as wastes (2) Stale and left over cooked eatables (3) Rotten fruits and vegetables belonging to perishable commodity category (4) Broken pieces of daily use light materials including glass tubes (bulbs) & other similar light materials (5) dirty & torn out clothes (6) tying materials like wrapped up ropes made up of plastic, wire, cotton, nylon (again plastic).. (7) General paper stuff coming in the form of paper baggage (light container) (8) Spilled over (incl.fallen down on the floor) substance which could be an oily substance, general eatable substance, some grocery items, some other substance as well (9) Worshipped flowers and related stuff (9) Discarded old machinery & equipment (electronics, semi electronics or storage items / utility items) (10) Different varieties of industrial waste and (11) Different kinds of medical waste. The list could be more. My earnest request is let the experts from the Government side undertake a full fledged study on the above types of waste generated vis-a-vis their disposal - let them also undertake a study tour of many places in our country and also the system followed in developed countries. All these should be done within a time frame. Lastly, let the Government bestow more responsibilities on every Mayor of a city, on every Municipal Corporation Head of a Town, on every village head / District head and so on. The additional responsibility should be in the form of ensuring that for the above first nine (I am purposely keeping single digit number as not to overburden the Municipal commissioners something to begin with) categories WASTE GENERATED, LET THERE BE INDIVIDUAL BIN PLACED ON EACH STREET; EACH BLOCK; to facilitate each type of waste generated going exactly into the same bin. This will ensure items can be reycled and brought to use again. For making this scheme success, the public has to be taught on to the usage of this system through newspaper bulletins, schools, colleges, tv channels and other modes. For categories, 9 and 10, mentioned above, let the environment ministry with the support of Mayor, Municipal Corporators do the home work and COME OUT WITH SCHEMES TO FACILITATE THEIR DISPOSAL. Public Private Partnership type of organisation can do well to clear the mess that we are seeing today. This is not a big deal at all - only thing Govt. needs to have the will and be serious on this issue. Our country's rating will go up manifold in one go if the above type situation start functioning. Let's hope things are heard properly at the right corners. Lastly, the article says 'let's put a stop to usage of plastic bags" - this is awesome but this kind of slogan seem to be in existence for the last decade or so. Being an optimist, I am hoping the above suggested lines merit consideration at the right quarters and full fledged efforts are made to make every place look neat, clean and nice.
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