Five samples of Mr Everest snow were investigated for micro-plastics by the University of Plymouth. All five samples of snow contained microplastics. Think of it yourself. Recently, several tons of trash was removed from the world’s highest peak. But the microplastics might be more than that : it is possible, believe researchers, that the plastics came from gear and outdoor clothing.
First of all, this is terrible news by itself. People have left no spot safe from plastics-the pollution is universal. Second, it is possible, although not entirely confirmed, that microplastics could accelerate the snow melt. Of course, we all know how terrible it is when microplastics embed themselves in eco-system, because they emit both toxics and can disrupt the metabolism of even lower order animals.
For India, the lessons are clear. Although data is always welcome, we don’t have to wait for it. Tourism-dependant regions must address plastic trash. I’ve never been a votary of clean up drives without a back-up plan for long term prevention, but this study pushes me to think that a one-time clean up with adequate disposal might help prevent microplastics. Prevention must be locally designed for impact. From local cess from tourists for plastic handling, to implementing collection systems, to invoking the Extended Producer Responsibility clauses from Indian rules, tourism rich states must make time bound plans. India should join other tourism dependant nations to ask that branded outdoor gear be redesigned to prevent fibre shedding. This is where states should turn their focus, instead of endless, futile bans on plastic bags.
(The writer is Founder and Director, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)