June 30, 2013

Smoke billowing backyards

Since May this year, I haven't been able to find time to visit this blog. But last evening, when I read about an interesting experiment in Apiology (study of bees), I felt compelled to write about it. Didn't find the time or space though. Stepping out, and after walking for an hour through what looked like unending stretches of green, and not getting to see a single bee or a butterfly, I thought about the 'bees on hire' and felt the urge to talk about it here, but again, time and space problems.( I will hire them for my next post :)

This morning, during one of my India calls, I heard about 'burning backyards' and I have to write about it. It's that disturbing. Not that it's a new practice. Not at all. But just the thought of educated people resorting to it, makes me shudder.

                                     ( image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonathan_brandt/8496072172/)

In some municipalities in Kerala, there are waste disposal mechanisms, funded by local housing colonies. Apparently, in Aluva there used to be one, but they no longer collect plastic and related materials. The reason? The last time they tried to burn all the plastic collected thus, it caused a helluva smoke and neighbors, unable to breathe, complained, and that was the end of their 'plastic disposal.' Seeing the waste collection agency workers come in color-coordinated uniforms to collect the garbage and plastic-related waste from our doorsteps, I used to feel happy that there are finally some thoughtful disposal methods implemented. How could I be so ignorant? Instead of individuals burning plastic in their own compounds, a group of workers were paid a paltry sum to burn it all together under the cover of the night sky, in some god forsaken government land.

So, what do households do now? Though some of them are aware of the harmful effects of burning plastic, to have clean courtyards and clean storage spaces, they are all burning it 'safely' - away from fruit bearing trees and houses, in the safety of their own backyards. When did that become the notion of 'safe burning'?

Majority of plastics when burnt release Dioxin which is a known human carcinogen and the most potent synthetic carcinogen ever tested in laboratory animals. Dioxin is evaluated to be over 10,000 times more potent in causing cancer than the next highest chemical (diethanol amine), half a million times more than arsenic and a million or more times greater than all others.“Once dioxins have entered the environment or body, they are there to stay due to their uncanny ability to dissolve in fats and to their rock-solid chemical stability.” (WHO).

The solutions for some of our problems are within our knowledge and reach. Crying hoarse for banning plastic, or wishing for high-tech incinerators in every town or city may not be the wisest thing to do. We may not be able to target the very root of the problem either, but we can certainly lessen it's impact on us and the environment. By trying to reduce our usage of plastic, by trying to stay away from buying stuff packed in plastic, by resolving not to gift a plastic toy, by trying to remember to carry our own shopping bags. All the plastic in our homes are brought in by us. Can we be thoughtful enough? I am definitely going to remind myself more often.

Please help spread the word. Every little helps.

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