Plastic is choking waterways worldwide, must be replaced with paper, says UK expert

Kolkata:6 Nov, 2019 (Times of India)

Paper was the most obvious substitute for plastic and should be used to save our choking waterways, said John Loughhead, advisor to the department of business, energy and industrial strategy, UK.

While it was imperative to prevent plastics from getting into rivers and oceans, moves to ban its use would prove futile unless consumers were convinced they shouldn’t litter and that they should be given suitable alternatives, Loghhead felt. In Kolkata for the 5th India International Science Festival, the British technocrat pointed out that while plastics had been choking and polluting rivers and oceans around the world, including India, the menace had not been checked since governments and environmentalists failed to find substitutes. “We must remember people throw away plastics to get rid of them. It suits their interest to throw them away and it is the job of technologists, scientists and governments to stop them by providing the right replacements,” said Loughhead.

Paper had successfully replaced plastic bags across Europe, he said. “There is no immediate solution to the plastic menace. But the good thing is even though the older generation is loath to change, young people think differently. They are keen on doing what is right,” said Loughhead.

Referring to a start-up project launched by a UK entrepreneur to weed out plastics from waterways, including the Ganga, Loughhead said it now had the backing of agencies in both the UK and India. “These are efforts we need. But the plastic pollution needs a three-way solution. First, we need to identify the right alternative, develop the technology to produce it and finally, motivate the public to shun plastics and adopt the replacement. It is the last part that is the most important since unless people stop using plastics, we can’t prevent its litter,” said the British technologist.

But the immediate threat posed by plastics was being faced by rivers and oceans, he pointed out. “First, we need to protect the coasts for a huge amount of plastic is getting into the seas. An effort has begun in cities, like Kolkata,” he said, advising that none should be charged for paper bags to make them more acceptable.

Terming India’s attempt to launch a satellite on the moon a success, Loughhead said it gave the country’s scientific endeavours a shot in the arm. “It may not have been a perfect finish but it was still a huge achievement. I would call it a 99% success. Any country that lands a satellite on the moon’s surface has done a wonderful job,” he said.

The inaugural lamp being lit at the 5th India International Science Festival in Kolkata on Tuesday