Let’s talk Plastic!

plastic-vs-paper-bagWe wish to discuss the great debate around using plastic bags verses paper bags.

So which would you choose – plastic or paper?

It is becoming a question that has created huge debate; when it comes to packing your grocery shopping, would you choose a paper or plastic bag? It seems like it should be an easy choice, but there are a lot of positive and negative aspects associated with each type of bag. From durability and re-usability to life-cycle costs, there’s a lot more to paper and plastic bags than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at the way each bag affects the environment.

Plastic or paper – comparing facts and figures:

Many people think that paper bags are much more environmentally-friendly than plastic, because it comes from wood, which is an honest, organic and renewable resource, whereas plastic comes from oil or gas, which is a non-renewable resource, manufactured via a chemical process. If we look at the manufacturing processes of both materials however, producing paper bags seems a lot less environmentally-friendly than producing plastic ones. One difficulty in comparing facts and figures is that there are so many sources to be found, based on different studies. The following gives a comparitive overview between plastic and paper bag production (1).

As you can see, both manufacturing processes use water, but 220 litres are needed to produce 1000 plastic bags, while 3800 litres of water are needed to produce the same number of paper bags(1). And in terms of energy used and greenhouse gases being emitted during manufacturing, the plastic bag comes out best.

To replace all the plastic bags being used in the European Union with paper ones in one year, you would need to cut down an additional 2.2 million trees. This is the same as chopping down 110 Km2 of forest. If wood is being used from a sustainable forest (where 5% of the adult trees are felled every year and new planting takes place), then you would need an area slightly smaller than the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and you would need to use 156 Billion additional liters of water each year (equivalent to 60,000 Olympic swimming pools).

A study commissioned by the international retail chain Carrefour Group(2) in 2005 compared the environmental impact of plastic and paper bags. The conclusion was that overall, plastic bags were more environmentally friendly than paper bags and their advantages grew the more they were reused.

Recycling: Paper versus Plastic

Recycling of paper or plastic bags is not an easy process.  In order for paper to be recycled collected paper must first be re-pulped using many chemicals to bleach and separate the pulp fibres. These fibres are then cleaned and screened to make sure that they are free of contaminants. Finally, the fibres are washed before being pressed and rolled into paper once again. In Europe, the current rate for recycling paper successfully is 70%, thanks to municipal paper collections; more than 60 million tonnes of used paper are collected in Europe each year (3).

To recycle plastic it must be re-melted and re-formed, resulting in a quality that isn’t as good the second time round. That’s why plastic is more often down-cycled into less functional forms. In the Netherlands, the “Plastic Heroes” recycling campaign aims to efficiently recycle 42% of all plastic packaging by 2012. Even though it takes 91% less energy to recycle a kilo of plastic than a kilo of paper (4), it still has to be ensured that recycling streams are stimulated and improved, to reduce single-time use of bags and save precious resources. If societies across all European countries were more responsible about recycling plastic, an enormous percentage of plastic could efficiently be re-used in this way.

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The negative image of plastic:

Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Of those, millions end up in the litter stream outside of landfills (estimates range from less than 1-3% of the bags (5)) and this is one of the reasons why plastic bags receive such bad press. Torn and ripped plastic bags caught in trees, stuck in sewers and found drifting on oceans are causing real problems; graphic images of dolphins, turtles and penguins being killed due to ingesting plastic has caused public outrage. For these reasons, some European Member states have taken different measures to tackle the increasing use of plastic bags and the pollution they cause. Ireland and Denmark have bag taxes while in Belgium and France retailers charge a fee that goes toward their collection and recycling. The Italian Government has taken the issue one step further by introducing a total ban on plastic bags.

We need to be more responsible.

Taxing or banning plastic bags outright may reduce the amount of plastic bags used, but replacing them with, for example, paper bags will add to carbon emissions, along with more energy being used to cut, print, package and transport them. A good solution is to re-use plastic or paper bags multiple times for grocery carrying, and then recycle them as bin-liners. Investing in a high-quality re-usable carrier bag or a collapsible plastic crate offers a more sustainable solution. The most effective solution of course is for people to be responsible for their waste and take care of proper waste separation and recycle actions, so that bags flying around in our natural environment and oceans can be avoided. Plastic hardly degrades in nature; even paper can take weeks or even months to decompose (6).

It’s only through proper waste management that we can stop the plastic ‘soups’ in our oceans from getting bigger. At the 5th International Marine Debris Conference (7) held in March 2011 in Honolulu, representatives of plastics organisations from around the world signed up to an initiative aimed at preventing marine debris. They will work with the scientific community and researchers to evaluate the scope, origins, and impact of and solutions to marine litter, particularly in communities and countries that border our oceans and watersheds. In Europe, fishermen are now being paid to collect surface litter, especially plastic litter, using specially designed booms (8). This pilot project has been set up by the European Plastics Converters (an EU-level Trade Association) and supported financially by the European Fisheries Fund. This initiative will help to save marine life while cleaning up the oceans. At the end of the day however, the initiative to properly dispose of litter starts with YOU!

References

Breaking The Plastic bag Habit
1. Plastic’s contribution to climate protection
2. Scottish Government
3. Paper: Recovery and Recycling
4. Reuse It
5. National Geographic
6. Answers
7. Marine Debris Solutions
8. Waste Free Oceans

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Port-a-loo

Till about a few years back, Swachch Bharat was but a far-fetched dream. But the last couple of years, there is a rise in awareness about sanitation and a whole new wave of optimism around this topic has engulfed India!

More than half of 1.2 billion people in India live without toilets. They squat on roadsides, in agriculture fields or at railway tracks and defecate in the open. This, despite the Indian government spending close to Rs.1,250 billion on water and sanitation projects in the last 20 years.

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Illnesses that are a direct result of bad sanitation affect the quality of life
of millions of people around the world, especially children. A safe and clean toilet can be a stepping stone to a healthy life, greater human dignity, freedom, equality between women, men, girls and boys, and finally, a catalyst to the development of communities and countries.

INTENT:

To design a low-cost, light-weight, user-friendly, sustainable and
do-it-yourself toilet for quick installation to solve this urgent issue.

Basically, frombag

to

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LAYERS OF CONSTRUCTION:

use

This port-a-loo could be installed using any method of toilet construction – twin-pit, ecosans, ventilated improved pit toilets, etc.

FLEXIBILITY:
Depending on one’s budget and requirements, the material could be decided. Ranging from bamboo to cement sheets, any material could be fitted in these frames. Apart from villages and rural areas, these can also be used as mobile toilets for various camps and large gatherings. e.g.- Kumbh Mela, urgent dUntitledisaster-relief construction, etc.

Compost toilets are very cheap, sustainable and hygienic. They are the way ahead. This port-a-loo has been designed to help solve the urgent and ever-lasting sanitation issue in our country.

After all, we all have got to take care of our own shit!

Green is the new Black!

Oooh yes, it is! And, it better be!

How many of us are planning our monsoon getaway on a beautiful trek?

Do the mountains draw you to them, or are you a forest person?

Don’t we all love amazing afternoons by the sea, with chirping birds in the background?

Isn’t the thought of a vacation at countryside enticing?

You know what, we may not leave these options for our kids!  They will never know, if we continue to consume our planet the way we are, the joy of swimming in the sea, the bliss of taking in fresh air after a few hours of scaling the magnificent mountain, the beauty that our plant kingdom is!  Or have we become so inanimate that we will be able to comprehend this situation only with the thought of it not being left for “us”?

Do we even realize the irony in the statement – what are you doing on this World Environment Day?! Doing? Really? We have to stop doing what we are doing, and undo a lot of things actually! It’s a pity that we need a day for something so natural! We have collectively managed to raid our planet forever, and ridicule it further by putting its natural state on pedestal, and celebrating so unnaturally!

We can show our respect to our environment, our gratitude to our mother, our indebtedness to this being, only by changing our attitude, our lifestyle, habits, conduct. Nothing around will change, till we don’t change from within.

We wish, on this World Environment Day, that we never have to celebrate it again, and everyday is a celebration of nature! We, at U+ Collective, believe that there is no future without a healthy nature.

Impact Of Our Act.

This is an article from http://www.exposingtruth.com/20-images-that-show-the-human-impact-on-the-planet/

We could not do a better job of pressing on the urgency of our actions to change this scenario. One step at a time, and in no time we will make a huge impact.

Let us do ourselves a favour, and lead a sustainable life, and help others with theirs as well. We urge you to invest your CSR wisely, and make a difference to our surrounding.

20 images that show the human impact on the planet

The human impact on this planet has been huge in a relatively short period of time. These pictures are not about data, but about better picturing this impact through visual examples. While viewing these, keep in mind that our current extinction rate is 1000x the background level and that wild animal populations have shrunk an average of 52% in 40 years.

1. A surfer riding through debris

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Plastic has permeated our oceans, with over 270 million metric tons of in the ocean there is potentially more plastic than fish in the oceans right now. This becomes even more believable when we consider that up to 85% of fisheries are being overexploited.

2. Deforestation in British Columbia, Canada

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Deforestation is a major problem, and we now have only half as many forests as we did in 1950. We are simultaneously putting out vastly more carbon into the atmosphere while depleting the planet’s capacity to absorb it.

3. Animal agriculture

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Animal agriculture, as a whole, requires tremendous amounts of resources and is a leader in environmental degradation, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (more than all transportation combined). Clearing land for animal agriculture, and the food it requires, accounts for 91% of amazon deforestation.

4.  Kowloon City in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is still one of the most densely populated cities on Earth with 6,650 people per square kilometer. When Kowloon City still stood, it housed 33,000 people in a single city block.

5. Mexico City, urban sprawl

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Mexico City is also one of the most populated cities in the world, and its expansion has wiped out natural ecosystems for many kilometers. Together, this has led to very bad air quality, a continuing concern for Mexican health authorities.

6.  Port au Prince, Haiti

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7. Crop “desert” in China, no room for nature

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Huge swaths of China, and indeed many developed and developing countries, is covered in fields containing only one kind of plant. Where fields and forests once stood, now stands neat rows of single species, far more sensitive to environmental fluctuations than a diverse ecosystem.

8. Deforestation in Brazil

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9. Plastic moves up the food chain

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In both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems: plastic moves up. The tiny and not so tiny pieces are eaten by animals which are themselves then eaten: it moves up the food chain. With all themicroplastics in our oceans and water: do we really think this isn’t reaching us?

10. Cheap fossil energy won’t last forever, and it certainly wasn’t free

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11. The Yangtze River turning red

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Whether due to microorganisms or industrial pollution: this is certainly a bad sign for the ecosystem. There is reason to believe that when enough small ecosystems collapse, the global biosphere will become destabilized and mass extinction will intensify.

12. Alberta Tar Sands, where there was once a boreal forest

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The tar sands are one of the most dirty sources of oil, and the extraction of this oil has polluted both the water and the land locally in Alberta. The fact that this project was OK’d by any environmental regulator is shocking, but this becomes less shocking when you realize that Alberta literally sold their regulator posts to the oil industry.

13. The Deepwater Horizon crisis

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Approximately 5 million barrels of oil (almost a million cubic meters) spilled into the ocean. In response to this disaster, BP sprayed Corexit (which is so poisonous that the US government demanded they stop) onto the oil to get it to disappear from sight. Millions of barrels of oilstill lay on the bottom of the Gulf, rendering hundreds to thousands of square miles devoid of life. Meanwhile, BP got off with a slap on the wrist and a connected high-ranking Halliburton manager who destroyed evidence was fined only $1,000.

14.  What was once a forest in Oregon is now a wasteland

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See previous points about deforestation, also keep in mind that the prices demanded for exploitation of Federal/public lands is pennies on the dollar for the ecological costs and profit the companies make. They demand so little that the Navajo were able to sue them for exploiting their lands and not returning even close to market price.

15. Oil filters in Seattle, 2003

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16. Junkyard full of metal scraps

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17. Mountain of phone chargers

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18. Sea of cellphones

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Our lust and desire for smartphones, and next-generation technologies of all kinds, are fueling conflict and loss of life the Congo.

19. Clearcutting in Finland

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20. Fish die-off at Redondo Beach, California

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With our population already at 7 billion people and overconsumption rising at a terrifying rate, this is something serious that many people have a hard time picturing. The truth is shocking, and when I look at these photos I can only imagine all the heart-wrenching images of environmental destruction that go unseen by most humans, the scenes which lay unvisited in the mountains or in the hearts of what were once forests.

The Act Of God

Of course, it is pun intended!

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This post is mainly a response to our last post. This is where we should actually be heading. And we believe it is absolutely not late to achieve this vision.

Let us follow the path shown by “God”, and make a substantial difference in our neighbourhood.  It is time that we get-over the frenzy of celebrities adopting villages, and take the plunge ourselves.

Let us all contribute, in whatever way we can, and change the face of our nation.

Let us all, as Gandhiji said it, “Be the change we want to see in this world.”

Where are we heading?

Newspapers are all talking about the government announcing construction of a new adventure park, to boost the tourism of the town. The radio is blaring of the sprawling new apartment schemes, with all the facilities one can fancy under the moon. The construction of a huge mall and multiplex on my way to office is the zillionth reminder of “development” in my town, even before I begin my day at work.

But is it really development?

If we still relate to that poem about open farms and chirping birds, if our children look at the stars in the sky and wonder if we are in a planetarium, if we share pictures and videos about the “simple” life before technology over WhatsApp, email or any platform, if all the running our kids do is while playing temple run, then we are certainly doing something wrong. Really wrong.

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Picture Courtesy – The Logical Indian

While forming various communities online and sharing a little too much of our space, we are fast forgetting to share the community spaces. With our cities growing at lightning speed, we are overlooking the planning and execution of spaces where cultural and social interaction and exchange is bought upon.

In fact, the residences in earlier times were, in themselves, a beautiful interface of private and community space. Be it the verandah houses of our gaothans, the central courtyard of our chawls, there was a hierarchy of private, semi-private, semi-public, and public spaces. Now we are confined to our little box, the doors of which open to the sight of another closed door, beyond which we travel from way underground to way up in the sky. This reflects in our towns, with the diminishing green covers, and lack of public places.

It is time we understand that public spaces are very important for a healthy community. India is developing very quickly. Having said that a very large part of the country is still waiting to be developed. It isn’t too late for us to take matters in our hands, and plan for more social spaces, and create better public facilities.

As a country, we need to stop relying on and wait for the government to do something, while we sit and blame them for our current predicament. We at U+ Collective think that that is very old school, and now we as residents of this country have equal responsibility of our neighbourhood, of conserving our mother earth, of taking care of our resources, and doing all of this ourselves.

How, some may ask? Well, the new CSR laws, for one, are actually a great opportunity to give back to the society what we have earned from it. If each of us take this one chance and make a worthwhile insert in our urban/rural scape, a lot can be achieved in less than 5 years, that hasn’t really been in the last few decades.

Hey!

“What do you want to do in life?” – This is one question that is an integral part of our growing up years. And this question is never so relevant as it is in mid-twenties!
 
Some choose to delay answering it by choosing not to leave the university until miraculously they know one day! Some know it since they were in their mother’s womb and are already on their way. Some are grilling themselves in a job that they detest, trying to look for that ray of hope guiding them out of their sticky situation. Meanwhile, we architects are still drafting through our final submission in college. And our friends are pursuing MBA. Yeah that’s right. And we all know when they are done with completely boring us with their unending surveys through college, all they talk about are ideas! A new venture, a new business. A start-up.
 
And when you have a few passionate MBA’s around they are quite contagious. So that led us thinking about what could be a start-up in architecture!
U+ Collective is an answer just to that. 
 

U+ is a collective initiated by Kshitij Shah and Ojashree Sarda with the purpose of bringing about Urban change. With India about to witness unprecedented urbanisation, we have taken this initiative to concentrate on providing their services to upgrading the quality of life in the tier 2 and 3 towns and cities of India.

With our diverse professional experiences and our passion for quality urban spaces we aim to provide strategic urban interventions that can help in urban transformation.

Through the medium of CSR, we aim to transform industrial hinterlands and help in the provision of basic infrastructural, environmental and public amenities.

Being a young start-up, with the guidance of various professionals in the industry we believe we offer the right combination of innovation, energy and experience to see through such initiatives.