The environmental, social, and economic impact of post-lockdown


Reading Time: 2 minutes

June 8th saw the unlocking of economic activities across the non-containment zones in the country. Restaurants, hotels, malls, and places of worship have started opening up to the public with strict safety measures. As part of adhering to the safety standards for preventing the spread of Coronavirus, many restaurants are using disposable tableware for an indefinite period of time. Single-use plastic would be the go-to material for the plates, glasses, cutlery, and packaging as they are cheap and easily available. However, the damage plastic does to the environment and living beings are long-lasting.

Our country produces 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste every day. Only 9% of this gets recycled. About 12% gets incinerated and 39% ends up in landfills. Almost 40% of plastic waste is uncollected, which means they end up on land and in water. This quantity may sky-rocket in the post-lockdown era.

To protect our planet and ourselves, the new world’s primary focus should be to build a solid, self-sustaining system that supports us in the long run. We have to seriously consider the short- and long-term environmental impact of our actions. In the pursuit of boosting the economy, we don’t want to compensate on our environment’s health. With many businesses heading to a fresh start, now would be a great opportunity to be more inclusive of the environment.

The restaurant industry could start using eco-friendly, biodegradable materials for tableware and packaging when they reopen. There is no dearth of eco-friendly solutions available today. Leaves of the banana plant and lotus for plates and packaging, areca leaf to make cups, and bamboo and wood to make cutlery – the options are numerous. To boost this behaviour, the government could also provide incentives to businesses that use alternate biodegradable/compostable solutions. This move will not only protect the environment but also help support our farmers who were badly affected by the lockdown. It will jump-start the much-needed green movement in the restaurant and food services industry, boost the agricultural industry, and be the first step towards sustainable development in Bengaluru and Karnataka.

As a customer, there are small steps one can take to reduce plastic consumption. One option would be to say no to plastic materials when eating out; urge your regular eateries to think about alternatives, help them connect with farmers, cottage industries, and micro industries that provide these tableware and packaging solutions. Another thing one could do is reduce the number of online food deliveries. Prefer takeaway instead; bring your own boxes for getting the food packed. We could even explore the possibility of a lunchbox delivery and return system for offices, like the dabbawalas in Mumbai, once things go back to normal. This will also open up more employment opportunities.

The agricultural sector and MSMEs have a huge role to play in our economy. MSMEs contributed 30.3% to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed 11.8 million people during the financial year 2018-2019. Agriculture contributed to 15.87% of GDP and employed 224 million people during the same period. The lockdown had badly affected both these sectors in India. It led to a significant economic slowdown. Rethinking the unlock phase with green solutions will be a boost for agriculture, MSMEs, and the large workforce dependent on them. This will help build momentum to compensate for the economic lull and drive the growth and development we aim to achieve.

 

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