I have recently spent a few weeks in India where the plastic problem is notorious. India - a fabulously beautiful country - is almost literally drowning under a tsunami of plastic - bottles, bags, parts, packaging... A staggering 60% of the plastic that ends up in our oceans is thought to come from India. It's everywhere and it's overwhelming, as is the sheer effort that is required to address it. This is a poorly sanitised country with a population of 1.2bn - many of whom struggle to survive every day, so understandably the plight of our oceans and the impact that plastic is having on the planet is not at the front of their minds. Currently, the main policy for controlling the tide is mandating that everyone must burn their rubbish - including plastic (there is no rubbish collection) - obviously the fumes are also incredibly bad for the environment, as well as people's health.
There are pockets of resistance to the plastic inundation which offer a glimmer of hope. Tourism, while an important source of economic growth, is one of the key causes of the over consumption of plastic and therefore must naturally lead the fight against it. I stayed in a few hotels which were doing their bit - notably by offering filtered water with which to replenish empty bottles, negating the need to buy a new bottle every few hours (tap water is undrinkable so many tourists and locals rely on bottled water - and when it's that hot you need at least a couple of litres a day). One (incidentally gorgeous) hotel, Abode in Mumbai, has fantastic ethical and green credentials, and one of its many brilliant initiatives was to provide their delicious-smelling shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in refillable stainless steel bottles. Such an easy way to make a difference (even though I was disappointed I couldn't swipe the toiletries!), as we noted in our first blog post about travelling.
There is a beautiful, picture perfect beach on the Keralan coast called Marari Beach - a beautiful strip of white sand, lined with coconut trees, that leads down to the sparkling waters of the Arabian Sea. Sadly, like so many other beaches in India and across the world, it is blighted by the regular fare of old bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers and other packaging. A committee of local hotels, guest houses and restaurants is taking matters into its own hands, galvanising the local community to do a big clear up and send all the rubbish to recycling plants. Done regularly, it will have a hugely positive impact on the sea, wildlife and the number of tourists flocking to a beach not marred by plastic detritus.
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