Plastic Bags a Bigger Threat to India’s Future Than Nuclear Weapons


Written by Mat McDermott

Anyone that’s spent any amount of time in India knows that plastic litter is everywhere and it’s a growing problem—to the degree that if something’s not done to stop it and remove the waste that’s already there future archeologists could probably identify a site’s age by its plastic layers.

The situation is so bad that, the Times of India reports, two Supreme Court justices have weighed in, saying plastic bags are a more serious threat to future generations than is posed by nuclear weapons.

It may be a bit of rhetorical flourish in terms of the immediacy of threat, but it’s not entirely hyperbole.

Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhya:

All of us are watching how our lakes, ponds and urban sewerage systems are getting choked by plastic bags. We want to expand the scope of this petition. Unless we examine a total ban on plastic bags or put in place a system for manufacturers mandating them to collect back all plastic bags, the next generation will be threatened with something more serious than the atom bomb. [...] A rough estimate shows more than 100 million water pouches are thrown all over the cities and towns.

For those who aren’t aware, in addition to plastic bottles of water, purified drinking water is also widely available in India in small clear flexible pouches, which through a combination of lack of public awareness regarding plastic waste disposal and, in most places, a near total lack of convenient waste bins, are just tossed to the ground.

The justices weren’t just opining, it was in response to petitions from two NGOs requesting something be done about the plastic problem on a national basis.

A lawyer for one of the NGOs highlighted how the plastic pollution isn’t just ugly, but directly impacts domestic animal (in addition to the more widely recognized impact on wildlife):

Due to government neglect across the country, animals particularly cows and bulls are ingesting plastic from garbage dumps and plastic bags are littered across the landscape and oceans. The ingestion of plastic bags chokes the stomach of cows and up to 60 kg of plastic bags were found in the stomachs of cows. What appears to be a healthy cow is in fact a plastic-choked cow or a cow full of plastic. Apart from the plastic completely choking the digestive system of the cow and causing excruciating pain to the animal, plastic residues enter the human food chain through dairy and animal products.

The NGOs want a phase out of open garbage disposal and open garbage bins, the beginning of door-to-door garbage collection, segregation of plastic waste from all other waste, a ban on plastic bags, treatment of cows and other animals who have ingested plastic.

For all the virtues India has, and to my mind there are a great many, recognition of the immense waste and sewerage problem the nation has, and acting upon it, is not among them. If India wishes to continue its rise on the world stage it needs to rapidly come to terms with these problems and implement effective solutions to them, before the transformation of its cities, towns, villages, and roadsides into wholesale garbage dumps composed largely of plastic waste is complete.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Recycling — How Does It Work?


Photo from fredricknoronha via flickr


Loesje vB
Loesje Najoan5 years ago

Hi Daisy C. I agree with you plastic is a worldwide problem not only in India and we need to ban plastic waste and clean up this mess.

david randell
.5 years ago

why cant these bags be required to be bio degradable? oh yeah ..... that would restrict our george bushy "freedom" and our ever glorious "free enterprise".

david randell
.5 years ago

meanwhile, back in the oceans, ingested plastic bags are expected to bring the great leatherback sea turtles, one of the true jems of life on our planet, to extinction in the next 10 years! koyaanisquatsi. is there some way to assasinate and entire species, namely us?

Howard C.
.5 years ago

When I was in India I did the same as when I go shopping in the UK, I took a cloth bag with me when I went shopping. It wasn't only plastic bags that I found to be a problem but the fact that petrol (gasoline) was sold from roadside stalls in litre plastic bottles, usually to fuel mopeds, these bottles were sometimes recycled (that is refilled) but also ended up being dumped. This is such a shame, India is a beautiful country.

Darla G.
Darla G5 years ago

I always recycle my plastic bags. I thought that was "good enough" until I recently read that 14 plastic bags (or maybe it was 11, I don't recall now) contains enough petroleum to power your car 1 mile. OMG, that did it for me. I'm using my cloth bags now when I go shopping.

Dianne D.
Dianne D5 years ago

I remember when everyone thought plastic was the best thing to happen since sliced bread. We bought tupperware by the boat loads, and loved our plastic bags that you could put over your arm. Now people are starting to take the warnings against plastic seriously and bring their own plastic bags and going back to glass for food storage. With so many people, countries like India, China and the USA need to prohibit so much plastic. Sometimes the government needs to step in as the people aren't smart enough to figure this stuff out or don't care.

vee s.
Veronica-Mae s5 years ago

Because it is made from oil, in the not too distant future plastic will die out - and it cannot be too soon. Meanwhile many many responsible companies are making plastic susbstitute items and packing material from cornstarch which poses no environmental problem at all. It can be composted and will break down easily. Someone needs to tell India that there are alternatives.

Another reason for getting rid of plastic containers and bottles for drinks is that chemicals from the plasrtc leech into the drink and are ingested every time you take a swig.

Elaine Pequegnat
Elaine Pequegnat5 years ago

plastic bags are an huge problem in all countries - but especially those facing overpopulation, and land squeeze. They litter the ground, the water, the air. Caught in buses, trees, power lines.
And their legacy will persist for years and years.

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege5 years ago

What a plague! But foreseeable for decades. And not only in India.

Deepali Barthwal
Deepali Barthwal5 years ago

I'm from India and so totally agree with what is written in article. Many states have taken the step and have banned the usage of Plastics and even some states have even started some campaigns to start the usage of jute bags.
Most of the Supermarkets have switched to degradable plastics but still a lot have to be done,