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How plastic pollution is killing India's holy cows

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We all know that plastic pollution is a massive threat, not only for our country, but for the whole of the planet. Leading scientists have warned that we have only 12 years to save the planet from a 'climate catastrophe', whilst some world leaders are still denying climate change is even real… evening, Mr President! 

 Cows eat garbage

Image Credit: Jon from Flickr

One of the countries struggling the most with gaining control of their plastic pollution is India. As a country, India’s main problem doesn’t wholly lie with the amount of plastic that they produce. Rather, it is how they dispose of their plastics that is the real issue. India does not have a rigid recycling system in place. According to the Economic Times, "80% of total plastic consumption is discarded as waste.

"Official statistics say the country generates 25,940 tonnes of waste daily. At least 40% of this is uncollected."

Not only is this contributing to the rest of the world’s problems, but it is also having a harrowing effect on India’s animals and people.

An article published on the We Want Refill website reveals how India’s plastic problem is killing off their cattle. Unfortunately, many farmers are too poor to feed their cows and 'so they're often let loose to find the nutrients they need on the streets'. On searching through the littered streets for leftovers, cows and other animals end up consuming large amounts of plastics, the most common object of which are plastic bags. The organisation Pacific Regional Environment Progamme (SPREP) found that these bags 'take up to 1,000 years to degrade', killing 100,000 marine species every year. 

 A cow, sacred animal in India

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons from Marc Shandro on Flickr

According to We Want Refill, the 'build up' of plastic in the cows' systems 'makes it difficult for cows to eat. As a result, milk production drops as does milk quality'. This can be fatal for the animal. There are treatments available to help prevent the cow from dying, however once the milk production has dried up, farmers often abandon their cattle, rather than spend money they cannot afford on treatment. 

This "sentences the animals to a slow and cruel death''.

Despite the majority of the population of India not consuming beef due to the rules of Hinduism, these bits of plastic can still be found in the majority of foods that we humans eat. This is especially apparent in marine life and land mammals.

For people in India, it is not just their livestock that they have to worry about. Due to having no real recycling system the litter often ends up finding its way into wells, drains and other water sources. 

Plastic Floats Image Credit: Jayaprakash R from Flickr

However, India is trying to combat plastic pollution and in 2018 put in place 'one of the world's strictest bans on plastics'. The western Indian state of Maharashtra introduced a ban on the majority of plastics. According to Yale Environment 360, ''penalties for manufacturing and selling [banned] items...includ[ed] fines of up to $350 and jail terms of up to three months'.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, such actions need to be taken across the world for it to truly make a difference.

We Want Refill’s answer to boycotting plastic pollution is a 'zero waste strategy'. It states that 'recycling isn't working' and the best way for consumers to commit to zero waste is by adopting the refill technology. This entails shoppers taking their own containers or bottles to the supermarkets and bringing products home in them. This is definitely a quick and reachable solution to the world's plastic problems.

You can sign the We Want Refill petition to install refill points on their website or on the link below https://wewantrefill.com/join/

Lead Image: Antoine Taveneaux on Wikimedia Commons




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