The other day I was at a departmental store picking up some groceries and I looked around to see that there wasn’t a single item that hadn’t been wrapped in a layer of plastic. It made me realize how we are entrapped within this enormous plastic mess that has caused some serious environmental defects.

The need for climate control is  now more than ever, and with plastic infiltrating every aspect of our lives the task becomes all the more difficult. With plastic production expanding worldwide in accordance with our rising demands for it, it’s time that we introspect and bring change in our consumption patterns. By 2050 plastic will be responsible for up to 13% of the total “carbon budget” – equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants, according to a research conducted by The Guardian.

Kathryn Stouffer

The food industry plays a key role in the consumption of plastic. Major application of plastics in food processing is in packaging, with other aspects ranging from plastic cutlery to storage units. According to a study by The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the packaging sector accounts for about 35% of the entire polymer utilization.

Not just a grocery store, but even if you look around in a restaurant, you will find yourself immersed in a sea of plastic. From plastic wraps to that tiny little straw on your table, every piece is a piece of poison for both, your body as well as the environment. Single use plastic i.e. plastic that is used only once for packaging and other purposes before it is discarded is our biggest enemy and the food industry must take greater responsibility for the same.  ( Read more about food packaging and it's impact on the environment here)The versatile role that plastic plays in our everyday lives is an undeniable truth, but is it a risk that we’re all willing to take against our own bodies and the earth that we live on?

Then what is the option that we have as a consumer? We for one cannot bring about radical changes in a revolutionary manner in a few days. But we as consumers have the power to bring collective change that affects the production of polymer at the industry level. Our very first power is to ‘refuse’. Refusal to fall prey to the hazardous effects of using plastic, refusal to let this poison bring about deathly climate change aka global warming. The next time you’re at a café and you order a drink, make sure do not serve it to you in a disposable glass, make sure you do not pick up the straw until direly required and that you try and avoid any other form of plastic cutlery. The refusal to let plastic dominate your lives will only come when we as individuals are well informed about the threat that it poses to our bodies and the environment.

milk, coffee, ice, cream, straw, milkshake, sweet
Denise Uy

Talking about another form of refusal, it is the refusal to use plastic containers and utensils at home. Plastic utensils have overtaken our good old steel utensils, and how couldn’t they when we are abundantly supplied with the same with every food delivery or takeaway? We use plastic containers to store our food, to reheat food in our microwaves without giving a second thought about how it is a slow poisoning system infiltrating our bodies. And in this case, we already have the best alternatives, steel and glassware, they’re non-toxic, unlike plastic and are also durable. The first step to eradicate plastic from our homes is to avoid buying any sort of plastic ware. One big source of plastic ware in our homes is food from restaurants that is packed in plastic containers. These containers cannot be classified as single use plastic neither can they be called durable plastic ware, thus they find their places in our homes as containers to store snacks and other eatables. The only solution in this case is to limit home delivery of food/food takeaways. Discarding the packaging containers in this case is of little use, since the plastic item has already found their way into the consumer chain. 

Another important step we could undertake to reduce plastic consumption in the food industry can be adopted in our daily lives while buying groceries. It is as easy as making a conscious choice; it involves buying large quantity packages or bulk quantities over smaller ones. For instance, you buy a biscuit pack that weighs 500g and it lasts you a whole month in contrast to a smaller 100g pack that last you a day or two because of which you’re forced to buy many such packets over a duration of one month. The math is simple here, buying a larger package serves you the same purpose but it brings about a little change in the demand for plastic packaging. This step is a slow process and will bring minute changes, but if we all make a conscious effort who knows we find lesser plastic in the grocery store next door?

All these steps are very simple to adopt in our everyday lives, and are not something that require you to give up your lifestyle. They sure do involve sacrifices, but aren’t they worth it considering it that it makes our homes less hot and humid, that it causes the icebergs in the Antarctic to stay intact and that it causes a better living space for humans and animals alike? All of these are personal changes that will cause slow but changes that are worthwhile. So the next time someone offers you a straw with a drink, remind yourself that you will not allow that tiny little piece of plastic to destroy the earth!!

Real talk | HD photo by Hermes Rivera (@hermez777) on Unsplash

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