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A Ghost Species and Planet ‘B’


Have you ever heard about a ghost species?

An unknown creature that is discovered neither it was born nor invented by human beings. These can be said to be the relatives of human beings, not necessarily in terms of facts but in their acts. The human eye can visualize this species yet is unable to see its consequences. They cannot gauge the threat that is coming their way from this ghost species. On the other hand, this ghost species are taking advantage of the incompetency of human beings and turning rapidly and drastically into ghost killers.

Can you guess what I’m talking about?

It is not other than your favorite, the most demanding, and the most utilized invention of modern times. i.e., plastic. That is the creation of human beings. Plastic is a polymer that is used to make different products, including wraps, bottles, bags, pipes, toothbrushes, crockery, cutlery, and the list goes on. Plastic is available in different types and forms based on its composition, which decides its fate and how many times a plastic product can be reused. Can you imagine your life without plastic in this era? I’m sure the answer would be NO!

Let me tell you the major drawback of plastic. It cannot be decomposed even over 500-1000 years of time. Do you ever see plastic with an expiry date? Do you ever think why it is so? No? This is because we don’t care about our planet ‘Earth.’ We are only concerned about our lifestyle, daily routine, ease in our everyday chores, and grand business ideas. Should we continue like this?

I would like to share some of my personal experiences regarding the use of plastic. In 2019, I visited a well-known bakery in Islamabad, where I witnessed people leaving the place by grabbing their stuff in their hands. Out of curiosity, I enquired my colleague why they were doing so. She replied, ‘the Federal Government has imposed a ban on the use of plastic bags so, with immediate compliance, the bakers have restricted the use of polyethylene bags.’

Big Deal! After a week, I went to the same place, and this time people were taking their goods in new translucent bags which they considered themselves or told as cloth bags that were not! Then what were these bags made of? Those were another yet similar polymer, ‘polypropylene’ (or Low-Density Polyethylene, LDPE) bags, another type of polymer with a little change in composition but having the same issue as polyethylene bags, i.e., ‘degradation!’

Another incident happened in Karachi when I walked into a store that is part of an international business chain and famous for its plastic goods. At the time of payment, the boy on the other side of the billing counter asked me if I needed to add a bag to carry my stuff. Off course, I would need that since I have purchased several articles from the store.

Right after replying to him, ‘yes’! I asked him a question, ‘do they use this amount for the benefit of the business or the environment?’ You must be thinking about why I have asked this question. So, let me tell you the reason why I raised this query is that the bag he added to my bill was not a plastic bag. It was a ‘paper bag’! After a few minutes of complete silence, he somehow recovered from the shock of an unexpected question from a customer who replied with a single word, ‘business!’

A few days earlier, back-to-back incidents in my vicinity caught my attention. A well-known ice cream company organized a campaign to promote its brand. For this purpose, the management of the company arranged a stage, a music system with generators, and a few ice-cream-selling carts that distributed free ice cream to children and adults. A couple of their workers were deputed to take photographs of the event. They also invited some media persons to highlight the occasion. At the end of the event, the workers wrapped up their stuff and left the locality. They forgot one thing to take with them ‘plastic wrappers!’

After a week, two similar episodes occurred, but this time by two different instant noodles companies. Sigh!

All the above-mentioned practices indicate that most companies and business owners do not consider environmental policies while making organizational decisions. They favor personal growth over environmental sustainability. Not only this, the plastic company which I have mentioned earlier is charging for a paper bag by inappropriately applying the reduced use of plastic strategy. Reduce use is one of the 3R’s strategies, i.e., ‘REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE,’ which works in a way that if you ask a customer to add a bag (more precisely, a plastic bag) that will cost a small amount they will probably refuse to add it and this will ultimately ‘reduce’ the use of plastic.

The bakers discussed above took the benefit of the mob’s illiteracy to differentiate between a cloth bag and a low-density polyethylene bag (LDPE) through the heat stitched on bags. The local companies and business dealers can arrange a grand event for their promotions and can also arrange a trashcan or ask the concerned authorities, where they are organizing programs, to arrange one instead of making the entire vicinity garbage. They should inculcate a sense of cleanliness in young children rather than making them a mob taking advantage of free products.

In Iceland, people brought a revolution with their minor acts. They noticed that a box of toothpaste that was made out of paper was nothing but a luxury. People buy toothpaste and thrash the box away. They started doing the same activity right in the store. Whenever people buy toothpaste, they take out the squeezing tube that comes without a box.

This act caught the attention of business owners and policymakers that this packaging is nothing to do with the product. It’s just a waste of natural resources. i.e., trees in terms of paper. They immediately stop paper packaging and toothpaste started coming out in the market without additional paper boxes. The motive behind this action was only one, i.e., ‘We don’t have a planet B.’

Also, in Pakistan, a couple of years ago, a clothing brand started a campaign using paper bags in which seeds were embedded, once used, can be torn down, sowed in soil, and watered at a place where there is a possibility of plant growth. It was a great initiative. At least they thought of paying back what they are taking from the environment, recycling! This kind of practice should be continued.

It’s a common observation that in every store or grocery shop, sellers use polyethylene bags in an unstoppable manner without hesitation. They seal those bags and don’t allow you to use tote cloth bags due to the fear of good theft. If people cannot be honest with their moral values, how can we expect them to be honest with the environment?

We have added ‘Environmental Studies’ as a subject in our curriculum but unfortunately failed to educate people on how this could be implemented in our daily life. It’s high time to pay back the environment what we take because we don’t have a planet ‘B.’

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