“This is a story of our changing planet,
and what we can do to help it thrive…”
                                  -Sir Richard Attenborough

As the year ends and another year slowly comes, it would be wise not to look for what Santa brought to us. It would be wise to look into what the future offers. Amidst the opening of the economy and the ebbing down of Pandemic realities, it is imperative that we look into that often overlooked pandemic of sorts, plastic pollution.

Marian Bigum, Circular Economy Specialist at Asian Development Bank wrote “Plastics are a key global material and an important part of the global economy. However, plastics present considerable challenges, including high waste generation, low recycling rates, and climate gas emissions from production and waste disposal.

Greenhouse gas emissions from plastics are rising not only because of increased consumption but also because plastic waste is incinerated, releasing the embedded carbon to the atmosphere in the process. The Center for International Environmental Law found that given the present trajectory, plastic alone could consume 10%–13% of the 2˚C scenario global carbon budget in 2050. The Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts and Policy Options (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2022) estimates around 460 million tonnes of plastic waste were generated in 2019, corresponding to 1,800 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent.

The United Nations Environment Programme said it more straightforwardly “While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become addicted to single-use plastic products — with severe environmental, social, economic, and health consequences.

Around the world, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, while up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed for single-use purposes – used just once and then thrown away.

Plastics including microplastics are now ubiquitous in our natural environment. They are becoming part of the Earth’s fossil record and a marker of the Anthropocene, our current geological era. They have even given their name to a new marine microbial habitat called the “plastisphere”.

The worrying effect would be this, in the long run, the world will choke, and natural flow and water circulation will be hampered, and the same could create problems for Earth’s Homeostatic and systemic well-being. In layman’s terms, the Earth’s arteries and veins are clogged by the arteries and plastics are the cholesterol that hampers systemic functioning. Given the nearly indestructible state that they are, the fight is arduous as it is nearly impossible to win.

As the new year comes, let us all be reminded that every time we wantonly throw plastics in single use or other forms we are contributing to the demise of the planet. Yes, it would not come soon but our children and the next generation of Earthlings would curse our generation of plastic addicts.

Let this be our crucial reminder, the Earth is choking in plastics . We can cover our nose for a minute or two and we shall know how bad it is!