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Looking for simple ways to get plastic out of your life? We tell you where to start.

The world is riding on a ‘no-plastic’ wave, India is not far behind. Many cities have adopted the ‘no-plastic’ strategy. Simple steps to get out of the plastic addiction will help India become environment-friendly.

It’s 5.30 a.m on a weekday in a bustling metro of India. A good number of us start our day opening the ubiquitous milk sachet for our morning fix. Some would probably go for a jog and follow it up with a refreshing coconut water break, drunk with a colourful straw. Buying veggies from the local vendor? You would probably come home with a thin, almost-ready-to-break plastic bag. Later in the day, we stop by a fast food chain and have a quick snack in a disposable thermocol cup. We all lead very convenient lives thanks to one brilliant invention — plastic.

Plastic was invented in New York in 1907 and became popular in the 1960s. Polyethene is one of the most popular varieties of plastics and was considered a boon when it first came around. As we look back, plastic has invaded every aspect of our lives; both urban and rural India is affected by the plastic hazard. Polluted oceans, dying marine life, growing landfills, an increase in global temperature are just some of the environmental effects this dangerous chemical has had.

India along with several other countries have pledged to ban single-use plastics in a 4 year period at the UN General Assembly. In 2018, on World Environment Day, the Indian Government announced that India will ‘eliminate all single-use plastic’ by 2022. Most Indian states took the pledge to go with this mission, with Mumbai being the largest city implementing it. Chennai jumped on the bandwagon in January 2019.

While we are not ready for a complete ban on plastics, single-use plastics are the more dangerous types. How is this ban going to change our lives? Are we prepared for this change?

Here’s a look at what is banned by the Government of Tamil Nadu:

  • Plastic sheets or cling films used for food wrapping.
  • Plastic and thermocol plates and cups
  • Plastic coated paper plates
  • Plastic coated paper cups
  • Plastic cutlery — plates, cups and spoons
  • Water pouches / packets
  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic carry bags of sizes and thickness
  • Non-woven polypropylene bags

It probably looks impossible to imagine a life without many of these plastic items. Birthday parties are centered around disposable cutlery, vegetables are wrapped in cling films and where would we be without those ever useful plastic carry bags?! India is waking up to the dangers of plastic and the ‘Zero waste lifestyle’, albeit slowly. Greener alternatives exist and we don’t need to look too far to adopt these.

These are ten ways you could take the plastic out of your life:

  1. Ditch the plastic shopping bags — always keep cloth bags handy for your groceries and other shopping!
  2. Love takeaway? Carry your traditional dabbas to restaurants instead of depending on the plastic boxes and cutlery!
  3. Drink directly from coconut, avoid the plastic straw. It’s not that difficult! Have the vendor cut the hole just right so you would drink out of it as you would out of a cup.
  4. Do you know it takes three times the amount of water to make a plastic bottle than to fill it? Carry your own metal or glass bottles!
  5. The ever common black dustbin liners can be now replaced with newspaper covers. It’s also a fun DIY activity!
  6. Avoid buying vegetables in supermarkets that sell them in plastics bags or cling films. Visit the local vegetable market, you’ll be in for a surprise!
  7. Ladies, do your bit by switching to cloth pads or menstrual cups to avoid the monthly pileup of sanitary napkins
  8. Farm to table is the buzzword — start buying your oil, pulses and rice in your own containers. You’ll then see how much plastic packaging goes unnoticed.
  9. Replace your melamine and plastic cutlery at home with stainless steel or try your hand at the recently popular edible cutlery.
  10. Swap your plastic toothbrush with a wooden one.

Bringing about change is not easy, start in small ways. It takes 21 days for habits to kick in and at Hand in Hand India, we tried it out ourselves before we wrote this piece. On World Environment Day, we took the 21-day challenge to remove plastic from our lives. We took an oath to give up straws, plastic bags and anything else that we use in everyday life and can do without. And it worked! Our campaign to the public was a success, with 120 participants contributing in their own little way to save the earth.

On a larger scale, Hand in Hand India Inclusive Development Services is an arm that focuses on Solid Waste Management. Our ‘Recycle for Life’ model has ensured close to 80% waste segregation in 5000 households in Mamallapuram, a town in Tamil Nadu.

We have been able to create impact and change in mindset, through years of innovative work. Read more about our work here.