It’s a fact—India, alone, generates 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste every year and 15,000 tonnes every day. The three Indian rivers—Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra form part of the ten rivers that collectively carry 90 percent of plastic to the world’s oceans. Things are real; it’s not just a matter of speculation and an attempt to battle a potential destruction ‘in future’. That future has already begun. For instance, Mumbai was flooded due to plastic waste clogging the main drainage systems, Kerala witnessed a massive waste of plastic heap being brought onto its lands from its recently occurred floods. These are just two well highlighted examples of the seemingly hundreds that are occurring every day, just under our and the government’s nose.
However, talking about the positive, awareness against plastic is already on the high tide, with multiple countries pressing on regulations to ban the items from daily usage and the common masses have started to fathom what lies in store for the planet due to continual over-usage of plastic. It’s safe to say, that the anti-plastic revolution is almost like that of a ‘Domino effect’. One state, one group of people initiates and the other follows, trailed by another one, and so on. All it takes is a starting spark. Since the wake of plastic ban in different states of India one by one, thankfully, lots of organizations and associations have started taking the same course. For example, studies estimate that 66 percent of the plastic waste generated in India is from packaging materials used in multiple hotels, shops, restaurants, etc. And, recently, in the wake of Tamil Nadu Govt’s decision to ban single use plastic items from the state, the Tamil Nadu Hotel Association took an innovative step to encourage plastic non-usage for its guests.
Food parcels and packaging materials, following the country’s disturbing trend, constitute a bulk portion of Tamil Nadu’s plastic waste disposed off each year, and that catalysed the 10,000 member strong association to adopt such a decision. There are atleast a minimum of 3 plastic items clinging on to every food order—the plastic box in which the food is stored, the cutlery or the spoons to eat the food with, and the plastic bag for suitably carrying the food. Hence, the initiative calls for all guests to carry their own utensils, items to hotels and restaurants (Bring Your Own Stuff), and visitors adhering to this will be entitled to a 5 percent discount on their bills. For instance, if a customer comes to a restaurant for takeaway, then he or she will be eligible for a five percent discount on the bills if the person brings their own containers to carry the food instead of asking for plastic-based packages. Through such measures, the Hotel Association aims to bring back the era of ‘carrier meals’—the trend followed decades ago to carry food in stainless steel container tanks and banana leaves that unsurprisingly became extinct after the advent of plastic—in the state. The association attempts to implement this across 2 lakh restaurants, hotels, and small scale food shops or eateries in Tamil Nadu and has asked its fellow members to put up boards or hoardings in order to communicate the eco-friendly offer. Moreover, cooperating with the government, the association has also started deploying strategies to collect back plastic items from all its constituent hotels, in an effort to make the whole sector plastic free.
Well, this certainly is not a new idea, but is certainly among the first set of trials that attracted large attention mainly because of the scale of implementation this initiative promises. For instance, Madurai Corporation had also started adopting this practice prior to Tamil Nadu Hotel Association’s decision. Even before that, similar initiatives were also taken in the cities of Pune and Bangalore. To look back, however, this strategy was first undertaken by the Hotel Association of Singapore, in resonance with Singapore government’s ‘Zero Waste Singapore’ campaign that aimed to recycle a significant portion of all the waste generated. Among the millions of tonnes of solid waste generated in Singapore each year, a staggering 25 percent of the chart was annexed by plastic waste only! All in all, this is but a tiny reflection of the global phenomenon that is plastic menace, and how it is potentially driving the world and it’s every segment—land, air, water, biome—to a gradual, painful destruction, underlining the essentiality of a mass revolution fiercer than ever seen in coordination with all regional and national governments and backed by big and small organizations alike.
Hence, initiatives like this taken by the Tamil Nadu Hotel Association are always a boon! Common masses usually are hardwired with a ‘rewarding psychology’ and to thread anti-plastic activities with monetary rewards is an idea worthy of applause. Times will tell the degree to which this program will be enforced, and the amount of success it will bring. But, there’s one thing more important as was already highlighted before—the starting spark. The bravado and the awareness to come up with an idea and take the first step is always more significant than the effect it will bring along. For, through these initiation trials, more will be catapulted to take the same path that will eventually result in activities on far larger scales, ultimately tying the world in unison in a war against plastic. After all, it’s all about the Domino Effect! Thank you Tamil Nadu Hotel Association!
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