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Life without plastic?

Life without plastic?

As Mark Twain quoted-“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it”.

The Maharashtra plastic ban calls for such support.

In the past thirty years, the use of plastics and other synthetic materials has expanded at a rapid pace. As new uses for these materials have been developed, applied, and made available to more people, the quantity of plastic debris entering the landfills and marine environment has undergone a corresponding increase.

Word of the season being plastic, it is what everybody wants to talk about these days. There may be many blogs/articles about plastic alternatives on the web. My particular blog may seem to talk about the same clichéd alternatives too. But, as an individual what really interests me is the solution that needs to be born for already existing plastic ware. What about the millions of plastic that has already been produced prior to the plastic ban. How can you convert that plastic into something resourceful? Please post your views on this in the comments section.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes a plan to completely end the use of single-use plastic in India by 2022.

As consumers how can we help achieve this target? One thing what we need to keep in mind is, there may be plenty of alternatives available in the market, but how feasible are these options? Can it reach a common man easily or will they just be tagged as fancy inventions posted on social media to garner attention. Takeaway containers, cling wrap and zip-lock bags: plastic food packaging sure seems hard to avoid, but there are other alternatives – some of which you’re likely to already have on-hand. Let us check 10 such alternatives.

1] Glassware/steel/Earthenware/Ceramics

Top issue for today? Plastic bowls/cups! Want to order curry or soup at your nearest restaurant/hotel? You might be asked to eat there itself or carry your own bowl/vessel reason being no cheap alternative available for plastic bowls. When I looked for alternatives to plastic or disposable cups/bowls. I came across many innovative inventions directing towards biodegradable cups/bowls, areca leaf bowls, banana leaf cups etc. These could be a great alternative to consumers when there is no alternative for a take away. Especially at coffee shops and hotels. I am sure in spite of being in the market they haven’t yet reached the streets where tea stalls, coffee shops or small hotels operate. More importantly at the price where these street dwellers can afford these options. Till the time they hit these stores and public places at an affordable rate we could all get used to the age old use of glassware/steel/clay cups/ceramics etc.

2] Cloth Bags

The evergreen alternative to the plastic bags. Cloth bags can be made from any fabric as the name suggests. Be it canvas, cotton, linen, jute or muslin. They are more durable and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. What’s great is that you can wash them regularly and reuse as many times as you want unlike plastic bags. Come on people, make them a trend already. We live in a society where people follow trend when seen on other people. This is surely one trend which must go viral.

3] Istaraku/Sal leaf plate

Patravali or Pattal or istaraku or Khali is an Indian eating plate made with broad dried leaves. It is mainly made from Sal leaves. It is also made from Banyan tree leaves. It is made in circular shape, by stitching 6 to 8 sal leaves with tiny wooden sticks. Every South Indian family would be aware of this particular plate alternative used in ceremonies, festival and special occasions. What I recall is that this leaf was used in hotels to serve food for many years before the plastic plate came into existence. It is time to bring it back. What I have noticed recently is that there has been a pathetic replica of these beautiful leaves converted into plastic looking leaves. Why use plastic leaves when you can use the original leaf? Also, believe it or not the taste of the food is further enhanced when served on these plates.

4] Banana leaf products

Banana leaves have a wide range of applications because they are large, flexible, waterproof and decorative. They are used for cooking, wrapping and food-serving in a wide range of cuisines in tropical and subtropical areas. The leaves are beautiful and yet again once the food touches the leaf, the smell and taste enhances further. Besides adding flavor, the leaves keep juices in and protect food from burning, much as foil does. In Tamil Nadu (India) leaves are fully dried and used as packing material for foodstuffs, and are also made into cups to hold liquids. Truly versatile isn’t it?

5] Beeswax/cling wraps

We’re all for fresh, packed lunches, but we all could do without the plastic packaging! Sure it’s convenient but it’s not necessarily good for you, your children and it’s definitely not good for the environment. Plastic wrap and plastic containers often go into the trash with bits of food stuck to them – this can make them non-contenders for recycling, along with any other recyclable materials they’ve contaminated. One of the solutions is reusable beeswax wraps. These hand-crafted, reusable beeswax wraps are made with cotton/muslin fabric, beeswax, jojoba oil and natural resin. They look great in any kitchen and are an earth friendly replacement for plastic wrap or cling film. Use to wrap vegetables, fruit, bread cheese, fermented foods, lunches, snacks or cover bowls. They can be reused, simply rinse with cool water and mild detergent between uses. Naturally antibacterial, the wraps slow down the rate of food decomposition to optimize the life and flavor of your food. These wraps are flexible and slightly adhesive. Use the warmth of your hands to shape and seal around your food or a bowl. For people for whom this may seem a bit tedious to invest time to make them at home, you can always purchase them online.

6] Bamboo straws

I am hoping to see these straws soon in the market in place of plastic straws. Hoping that they don’t cost a bomb! Imagine if the price of the straw exceeds the beverage itself? That would be a total failure of their existence. These bamboo drinking straws are a fun and eco-friendly alternative to plastic that can be used with any beverage. The straws are made from real whole bamboo stalks – nothing re-compressed or processed. They are washable and reusable. Alternatively fancy options like steel, coppers straws are a rage these days.

7] Storage containers

Did you somehow pick up a little plastic container yet again thinking it needs to be bought? It might be time to kiss these food containers goodbye for good. Here’s why….Although plastic containers are certainly convenient, many may contain BPA, or Bisphenol A, which is a chemical that blocks and interferes with our body’s hormones and may cause health concerns (particularly when the plastic is old, scratched or is subjected to heat such as microwaving). Glass jars/ steel jars or in fact even ceramic jars have been used since years to storage grains fresh and safe before plastics were introduced. They even come in sizes large enough to accommodate rice or flours. As certain storage items are one time buy. Irrespective of glassware and steel being on higher price end, it is worth investing for a prolonged usage.

8] Wooden spoons

This particular product somehow still doesn’t have enough options as much as other plastic products do. Yes, we can all use wooden or steel spoons as an alternative. But, somewhere deep in my thoughts I still feel we need more options. Unlike most of the Indians who can eat 99% of their food with their bare hands, there are people who are raised with eating etiquettes which includes eating with spoons, forks etc. Not trying to judge anybody’s choice of how they eat, I feel the need for more innovative inventions. Till then happy eating with wooden spoons. We are thankful for their existence.

9] Copper bottles/Hydro Flask

Water bottles are not the only source of plastic waste, but they are a major source of plastic exposure. Disposable water bottles can leach their hormone disrupting chemicals right into the water you drink from them. Heat or light exposure can speed up this process, as can the amount of time the water spends in the bottle. Since the ban, this one could be a major issue many parents who send their children to schools might face who have been using plastic bottles. It is time to shift. Copper water bottles or in general copper-ware has been in rage for past 2 years. However, usage of copper-ware is not a new trend. Our ancestors have been using copper, gold and silver since time immemorial. Remember the time when rose gold was the colour of the season. Most of us must have heard our grandparents tell us that drinking water stored in a copper vessel is beneficial to our health. So much so that some people have glasses and jugs made of copper that they use exclusively to store and drink water. So, does this belief really have any scientific backing? Or is it simply a myth? According to Ayurveda water stored in a copper vessel has the ability to balance all the three doshas in your body, (vata, kapha and pitta) and it does so by positively charging the water. The water stored in a copper vessel is known as ‘tamara jal’ and is supposed to be consumed after storing the water in a copper vessel for at least eight hours. When water is stored in a copper vessel the copper gently leeches into the water and lends it all its positive properties. The best part about this water is that it never becomes stale and can be stored this way for long periods of time. Another option being the age old Hydro flask. Hydro flask is the best reusable water bottle by far. It is not only stainless steel and BPA free, but it is also vacuum sealed and insulated so it is incredible at regulating temperature. We all need more of these in our lives.

10] Natural decorations

Last but not the least, plastic decorations have long become a part of everybody’s lives. There is no denial that as we all grow up we enjoy those decorations and themed parties. It is time we move closer to what nature has to offer. Let go of those disposable decorations, latex balloons used in birthday parties, ceremonies. Teach your friends, children, parents, friends and most importantly the society surrounded by you to embrace nature and its beautiful creations. Use foliage, flowers or paper to decorate. Use any of the above mentioned products while you celebrate. They make any party beautiful and innovative and best part is that they don’t end up in a landfill. Set an example for the future generations by your actions today

Here’s to a more sustainable future ahead of us.

I would love to know about the products you came across which can be used as an alternative to plastics or your general views.

 

References

  1. Laist DW. Overview of the biological effects of lost and discarded plastic debris in the marine environment. Marine pollution bulletin. 1987 Jun 1;18(6):319-26.
  2. https://www.firstpost.com/business/amid-make-in-india-job-creation-talk-maharashtra-plastic-ban-to-wipe-out-scores-of-jobs-livelihoods-say-plastic-manufacturers-4631671.html
  3. https://www.businesstoday.in/current/policy/maharashtra-plastic-ban-mumbai-whats-banned/story/279457.html
  4. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/maharashtra-softens-plastic-ban-after-industry-lobbying/article24327105.ece
  5. https://blog.goodnessmebox.com/alternatives-plastic-food-packaging/
  6. https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/breakfreefromplastic-top-5-alternatives-to-plastic-bags-that-are-available-in-the-market-9477/
  7. https://www.growforagecookferment.com/how-to-make-beeswax-food-wraps/
  8. https://sustainability.ncsu.edu/blog/changeyourstate/5-food-containers-alternatives-plastic/
  9. https://wellnessmama.com/58889/plastic-water-bottle-alternatives/
  10. https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/10-benefits-of-drinking-water-from-a-copper-vessel/ar-AA2brHe

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