At HEEALS, one of our main concerns is keeping our environment healthy. We’re living in an age where single-use plastics are everywhere, especially in the hot months when people switch from their paper cups filled with teas and coffees to cold beverages in plastic cups. We wanted to write a special blog post for World Environment Day – especially because this year India is the host and the theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution.” To be totally honest, doing the research for this blog post was devastating, and showed me personally how much more informed I need to be about environmental issues and how much more I need to be doing. So, without further ado, here is a fact list that will break your heart.
· While India has a lot of visible plastic pollution, there is actually less produced here per capita than in most other countries- and by a long shot too. On average, Indians use 24 pounds of plastic in a year, and when you think about how light plastic is, you realize that this is quite a lot. On the other hand, Americans are using an average of 240 pounds of plastic per year- and while I couldn’t find the numbers for Canada it would be safe to guess that it’s around the same amount.
· A plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to decompose. A plastic bottle takes around 500 years. A foam cup can take between 50 and 100 years.
· Throughout the world, 20,000 plastic bottles are purchased every single second. That’s 1,728,000,000 plastic bottles purchased every day- adding up to a grand total of six hundred and eighty billion, seven hundred and twenty million every year (680,720,000,000).
· Trash on beaches and in oceans often get carried north by the water currents and eventually wash up onto Arctic shores. In 2017, Dutch scientists found an average of 575 pieces of garbage per 100 metres of beach on Jan Mayen Island, dubbed the “most remote” island in the north of the Atlantic Ocean. By comparison, they found only 375 pieces/100m on Dutch beaches, even though these areas see an immensely greater number of humans every day.
As devastating as reading these facts can be, it’s important to remember two things: (1) the world can’t be expected to change overnight, but (2) we all have a role to play in conserving the environment and no effort is too small. This can mean bringing a reusable bottle or thermos next time you go to Starbucks, or carrying your empty plastic bottle a little further until you get to a recycling bin rather than just a trash can. It can mean writing to politicians and business owners, starting initiatives if you have those positions of authority, and teaching kids young about the importance of keeping our Earth clean.
In India right now there are some really cool initiatives going on. The organization ExtraCarbon will pick up your recyclables for you and even pay you for them as well! Unilever has developed a method that will allow us to recycle PET bottle indefinitely, with none of the health and safety concerns that have been present in the past, and in areas of India there are even roads being made out of recycled plastic!
HEEALS has also been doing some work in the recycled plastic sector. We have a “Say ‘No’ To Plastic” campaign promoting the use of reusable bags over plastic ones and have a catalogue where you can purchase recycled hand-made jewelry and crafts to support the NGO. We also have a partnership with BlueHorse Group, who make and sell eco-friendly and organic products. If you want to know more about what HEEALS is doing to help the environment and learn how you can get involved, reach out to Gaurav Kashyap, director, at email@example.com.
WASH and Menstrual Hygiene Intern Coordinator