Plastic Ban: A viable solution or a thoughtless prohibition!

The recent announcement by the government of Maharashtra imposing a blanket ban on the use of plastic including PET which is globally acclaimed food grade plastic, has given rise to number of concerns being raised. While the intent of the government behind initiating this ban of safeguarding the nature is noble, an overall ban might not help us provide long term and sustainable solution to this environmental demon

Is microwaving food in plastic dangerous?
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  • Plastic has always witnessed the tide of concerns when it comes to its use with regard to food contact. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a unique type of plastic which is globally used for food and drug packaging. It is approved by various international food safety agencies as a food grade plastic.
  • Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a monograph in April 2015 (from Farm to Plate), which endorses the safety of PET as a packaging material.

Certain types of plastics like PET which are food grade do not leach any type of harmful chemicals in the product contaminating the product. These materials are manufactured to have zero interaction with the product hence keeping it safe from any external reaction. PET is also 100% recyclable thus safeguarding environmental interests.

With the probability of impending ban it is vital to look at the viable alternatives to avoid any problems at the execution level. The current most advocated alternative for plastic is glass. There is a common understanding that glass is completely safe when it comes to food and water contact. But is it the case? Reusing glass bottles in the public places requires proper sterilisation to avoid any infections and spread of disease. Cleaning or sterilisation of glass bottles requires a huge amount of water and cleaning only with water will not ensure proper sterilisation, which will lead to the spread of many gastroenterological infections especially in kids and pregnant women.

Also, kids carrying glass bottles in schools will significantly increase the risk of injuries due to breakage of the bottles owing to its fragile nature. While we continuously advocate lessening the burden of school bags, using glass bottles and tiffin boxes will considerably increase the weight resulting possible joint pains for young students.

Seeing all of these factors a total ban on PET might prove as a nightmare entirely defeating our purpose of protecting environment. Instead of banning materials and products which are useful to human beings, there is a need on sensitising the masses on behaving responsibly towards nature. These measures with proper implementation will help us protecting the interest of our environment.

The author is  an Associate Professor of Medicine, Sir J J Group of Hospitals and Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai