Plastic, a persistent headache is slowly turning into a tough migraine. If proper medication is not taken, it would surely paralyse the whole body tomorrow.
Do we consider the impossibly high usage of plastics every year? It is 3 Trillion plastic bags globally, more than the overall GDP of almost all the countries. The days are not far when the marine life forms would compete with plastics for space and would choke to death in absence of Oxygen. So why don’t we ban it straightaway? The reason is its significant flexibility and appreciable holding capacity. Plastics can store a very diverse range of materials, which makes it the leader of the que in terms of packaging. Due to its opaque nature, it does not let the moisture get in, thereby increasing the shelf life of the product. Since it is cost effective and very light weighted, it has become very easy for plastics to establish its crown all over the world.
Another strong reason for not debarring the plastics at once is the Food Security. On a planet where 9 million people die because of hunger every year, it becomes the greatest sin to waste even a grain of food. Yet today, around 1.3 billion tonnes of food (one third of food produced) get wasted every year, accounting to 2.6 Trillion USD. Do we understand its significance? This amount can feed 815 million people in the world, i.e., four times of what is fed today.
There is a long duration and a very big distance between the date and place of harvesting of produce to the time of utilization of product by the customers. And here comes the role of plastic. It is efficient in protecting the food and its by-products, even at extreme conditions of high and low temperatures. When the single coating fails, we come up with multi layered packaging which serves the purpose. Hence, by protecting the food spoilage, we try to resolve the problem of Food Hunger at least to an extent.
But does that mean we are correct in our approach? The answer would always be BIG NO. One fault can never be overshadowed by another big fault. We have to come up with a sustainable outlook that apart from being product friendly would be essentially eco-friendly too. The Plastic Cycle approach where the plastic would be recycled and reused needs to be adapted today.
Israeli Food-tech start-up, W-Cycle has taken a great step in this direction by developing a 100% natural bag with the help of Sugarcane Bagasse. Since sugarcane is widely grown in all the tropical areas, it has outspread reach in availability. This innovative product named Supra Pulp has characteristics similar to that of plastics, rather proves to be better in various domains. It has antifungal and antimicrobial properties to increase the longevity of the food products and can be stored in the refrigerator or even pre heated in the microwave oven.
The other very important consideration, but mostly gets hidden is the Health. Small biomolecules of plastic homogenates in our food and gets concentrated in our body. These particles are slow poison, they harm us through their lethal nature once they get concentrated in an appropriate amount.
Keeping this in mind, Hyderabad based Shilpa Medicare Ltd has come up with Ready to Drink Green Tea that does not contain any residual material. It is like a Lifebuoy Hand soap, commonly said ‘Tikiya’ in India, wherein it completely dissolves when rubbed with hand with water. Carbon Footprint, which has also been a major concern from past many years, is taken care of by this small intervention of the company.
When we witness such great innovations from emerging companies, we start to imagine and wonder what versatile steps are being taken by the Big Global Brands like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Danone, Nestle, PepsiCo and others. But the underground reality remains very different. As they say, “Trust on their Actions, Not on Words.” Many of these brands have claimed to be the GREEN face of the world or boasted of becoming the PURE SURE in the coming future. But their efforts and eagerness for profit does not support their words on sustainability. Danone has been promising in its efforts as it created a complete reusable and eco-friendly plastic bottle and has won million hearts.
Lesser the Plastic, More the Life.
Making this the motto of the nation, the Government of every country must redistribute the raw material required for sustainable packaging from one region to another. Sugarcane and Tea are mainly grown in the Tropical and subtropical regions, whereas Sorghum mostly in the Temperate areas. Government should come forward and decrease the taxes and tariffs levied on those products which are exported for converting their waste into the product that is the Call of Today, An Alternative for Plastic. Israel has already taken its step by including countries that are poles apart from each other like Australia, Chile, Japan, U.K., and others.
It is all about the nature of we Homo sapiens to get connected to even those whom they have never met and come out and help them. Collaborate, and not compete is the strategy that is going to work for these environmental issues. Not just the Inter collaborations, but also the Intra collaborations of the brands is the need of the hour. Yes, it would require for them to give away a part of their competitive advantage, but let us remind ourselves that There is No Planet B.