Let’s not water down dangers posed by plastic

The city is taking a step back to move forward in its effort to cut down on plastic consumption.

Published: Wed 16 Feb 2022, 12:02 AM

Dubai’s tap water is safe to drink. It’s as close to packaged drinking water in purity, specifically the water packed in plastic bottles that we purchase when we are on the move. At homes, water in reusable cans is consumed in large quantities by families.

So if Dubai’s tap water is safe to drink, why buy the packaged variety in plastic bottles that are most often not recycled? Data suggests that only 9 per cent of plastic bottles are recycled globally. Reason: the costs, and low-income countries cannot afford recycling plants. The rest are discarded in the environment where animals consume them. Humans, in turn, eat produce from the soil, and also some of the animals who may have choked on the material. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down in the soil. One study says it takes 450 years for a single plastic bottle to disintegrate and disappear into the soil.

Our convenience is, therefore, causing great harm to the environment and animals. Plastic is polluting and choking the earth and our oceans. But with the bring-your-bottle initiative, Dubai is making it easy and convenient for residents, and has installed water taps in several locations across the city. This means residents are not required to buy a fresh plastic water bottle when they step outside their homes. They can carry a reusable bottle and fill up at these locations to slake their thirst.

The city is taking a step back to move forward in its effort to cut down on plastic consumption that is harmful to the environment and to the health of individuals who consume products stored and shipped in these materials. The stark reality is this: plastic is not a necessity, more so after the damage we have done over the decades since the 1950s when the polymer made its debut as packaging material. Industry back then touted its benefits.

It was ‘convenient’ to manufacture, cheap to package stuff, even food and it soon invaded our lives and damaged our systems. Now is the time to get rid of the material before it causes more damage, and countries are adopting tougher measures against its use. Earlier this month, Dubai said it would levy a fee on single-use plastic bags and would phase them out by June.

Abu Dhabi too is moving in that direction and other emirates are expected to follow suit. To hit the final nail on plastic’s coffin, we must understand that the hotter it gets, the easier for plastic to seep into water, hence there is an urgent need to dump plastic in all its forms. Water bottles found on supermarket shelves are made of polyethylene terephthalate, or simply PET whose long-term use could be dangerous to human health. Dubai has realised the perils posed by the material. Much water has flowed under the bridge on plastic. It’s time to fix the problem before it’s too late.

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