In a landmark decision, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to bar the city from buying plastic water bottles and to ban distribution of plastic water bottles smaller than starting Oct 1, 2014. The reasons for the ban are well justified, the plastic bottles are a big detriment to the environment. It is estimated that producing bottles for American consumption takes about 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. The average American goes through 167 water bottles in a year, but only recycles about 38.
The scene in India is only worse. According to estimates, plastic consumption has sky-rocketed in India over the last decade or so. Average Indian consumption of virgin plastics per capita reached 3.2 kg in 2000/2001 (5 kg if recycled material is included) from a mere 0.8 kg in 1990/1991. However, this is only one-fourth of the consumption in China (12 kg/capita, 1998) and one sixth of the world average (18 kg/capita). This consumption led to more than 5400 tonnes of plastics waste being generated per day in 2000/2001 (totalling 2 million tonnes per annum).
And the PET bottles are not behind. The ubiquitious Aquafina or Bisleri, are creating huge mounds of waste. Visit any urban landfill and it will be strewn with plastic bottles. And while there have been some projects piloted to take care of the waste, as in usage in laying roads, etc. In fact, plastic bottles can be recycled into clothing, fiberfill for sleeping bags, toys, stuffed animals, rulers, etc.
Yet, even with the high percentage of recycling in India, over 70%, the mounds of plastic bottles are growing. And if something is not done urgently, the problem will only exaceberate. But can India, like SF, ever ban plastic bottles outright. There is no urban infrastructure that has been in place to offer clean drinking water. In fact, one of the biggest reason why mineral water is fairly prevalent is because of the lack of a viable alternative.
The process to phase out plastic bottles need to be preceeded by an extensive plan wherein public drinking facilities are implemented. In fact, even before considering the ban, these facilities must be introduced. But the sad part is, like everything else this problem too is being largely ignored. The consequences of the ignorance now, will stare in our faces tomorrow. Are we so stupid so as not to realise?