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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

We must switch to eco-friendly packaging

There is an urgent need to put stop to their use of single-use plastic containers for delivering food. Or else this will become an even more bigger problem than the ubiquitous plastic carry bags .

environment Updated: Aug 19, 2019 12:45 IST
By Pushpa Girimaji
By Pushpa Girimaji
Hindustan Times
There is a need to consciously bring down the consumption of single-use plastic in every sector
There is a need to consciously bring down the consumption of single-use plastic in every sector(Sunil Ghosh / HT Photo )
         

During a recent visit to Bengaluru, I ordered ten ‘Rava (Sooji) Idlis’ from one of my favourite restaurants there through an online food delivery platform. I expected the ten idlis to be packed, as usual , in a banana leaf with an outer covering of butter paper with similar arrangement for the chutney. But what I saw made me feel really guilty about having ordered the food online. Each idli with chutney and subzi came in a separate plastic tray with a plastic lid. We were five people wanting to eat two idlis each and we had ten plastic trays and after we ate, we had to pick up a huge trash bag to put the plastic containers.

A niece who works in a software company in Bengaluru, , told me that most of her colleagues have now stopped bringing food from home. They order breakfast soon after they arrive at the office and then lunch and snacks in the evening, all adding up to a mountain of plastic debris in the office waste bin! Similarly, earlier , students sharing a house or working men and women who did not like cooking, got food through steel ‘tiffin careers’, but that again has now become a thing of the past , with everyone preferring to order different food online.

The e-commerce food platforms have really made it easy to order and get food , whether at the workplace or at home and it has also generated employment opportunities for many, but there is an urgent need to put stop to their use of single-use plastic containers for delivering food. Or else this will become an even more bigger problem than the ubiquitous plastic carry bags . According to rough estimates, the e-commerce platforms are generating about 22,000 metric tones of plastic waste a month.

In fact during that visit to Bengaluru, I went to a local market to pick up some disposable plates and bowls for a party- these are traditionally made from leaves of Flame of the Forest, but I was surprised to find a wide variety of biodegradable tableware and food packing material made from plant fibres and agri-waste originating from sugar cane, banana , wheat and bamboo. So it’s not as if alternatives to plastic are not available. What is needed is a push in that direction and this has to come from the government as well as the consumers.

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call, on Independence Day, to shun single -use plastics, particularly plastic carry bags, environment minister Prakash Javadekar has said that his ministry would launch a massive campaign in this regard and hold a series of meetings with all stakeholders to make India free of single use plastic. I do hope that he will call e-commerce food platforms too on the use of natural , biodegradable alternatives to plastic food containers. In fact the government should give adequate incentives for the use of such natural products and ensure that plastic packaging is completely eliminated. As consumers, we also need to play our part and shun restaurants and food delivery platforms that use plastic containers and patronize those who use natural alternatives.

The environment ministry should also look at all sectors that generate plastic waste and ensure that they put stop to such usage. For example, the small plastic disposable containers for shampoo , conditioner and moisturizer used by the hotel industry- these could be replaced with large containers fixed to the wall. Similarly, instead of keeping plastic water bottles in rooms, the hotel industry should be asked to use glass bottles. In short, there is need to consciously bring down the consumption of single-use plastic in every sector.

First Published: Aug 19, 2019 12:45 IST