Garden-Friendly Bugs!

Bugs, flies and beetles are all around us. Many people think of all insects as pests without knowing that many of them are garden friendly or beneficial insects. These beneficial insects each play an important role in our environment.

Is there really such a thing as a good bug? Obviously! Unlike Humans, Mother Nature has kept everything balanced in the environment. A nice bug does no harm; rather it will control those insects which eat any of your plants or crops. A really good bug eats those insects that destroy your plants or crops. Some of these insects help the gardener by pollinating flowers, while predatory insects eat other pest insects. There are other insects that break down decaying matter, helping to build good soil.

We never tend to appreciate the insects, forget about their lifecycles. We just want to get rid of them all. But they have a very important role to play in the Environment. Even the most avid gardeners may not be interested in the reproductive cycles of the green lacewing, but when they realize that one prolific female lacewing could be responsible for wiping out 40,000 pests each season, they can’t close their wide open mouth!

Attracting these “garden friendly” insects and be greatly beneficial to your garden, thus the reason they are called beneficial insects. Protect your beneficial insects by avoiding toxic sprays/dusts.

Below is a list of the top beneficial insects and what they do to help. Most insect problems can be biologically controlled with these insects…

Bees - There are over 20,000 species of bees worldwide. Several hundred of these species; from Giant honey bee to small Stingless bees, all are important pollinators of garden plants and many others necessary to wild plants. Attract native bees by planting a flower garden with as long of a bloom season as possible.

Parasitic wasps – Ranging from tiny Trichogramma wasps to huge ichneumonid wasps, parasitic wasps inject their eggs into pest insects. The larvae hatch and grow by absorbing nourishment through their skins, eventually killing the host insect.

Many of the solitary wasps are parasitoidal, meaning that they raise their young by laying eggs on or in the larvae of other insects. The wasp larvae eat the host larvae, eventually killing them. Solitary wasps parasitize almost every pest insect, making wasps valuable in horticulture for biological pest control of species such as whitefly in tomatoes and other crops.

Bee Flies - These are family of flies, some of which are really beautiful to see. the adults feed mainly on nectar and pollen, acting as important pollinators, while their larvae generally are predators or parasitoids of  eggs & larvae of other insects.

Braconid Wasp - Braconid wasps have such a strong reputation as killers of pests that they are widely used in agriculture. A few adults prey on other adult insects, but most feed on pollen. It's the larvae that are extremely valuable controls of garden, farm and forest pests. Egg and larval stages of various braconid wasp species chow down on larvae, pupae or nymphs of numerous pest moths, aphids, beetles, flies, ants or other bugs.
Yellow Jackets and Hornets - Although feared by many people, these insects are actually wonderful pest predators. They dive into foliage and carry off insects that are damaging your plants to feed their brood. Potter wasp is one the examples of solitary predator.

Lady beetles – A favorite with home gardeners, ladybugs are the best known beneficial insects around. There are more than 3,000 species of these small to medium sized beetles. Both adults and larvae eat thousands of pests, feeding on small insects such as aphids, mealy bugs, and spider mites. Also favored are corn flies, soft scales, whitefly and a wide variety of other soft-bodied, plant-eating insects. 

Ground beetles – Why they're good: A pest killer in two stages of its lifecycle, this beetle enjoys snails, slugs, cutworms, gypsy moth larvae, root maggots, tent caterpillars, Colorado potato beetle larvae and other pests that spend a stage of their lifecycle in the soil. Larvae feed on other ground larvae and insect eggs; one grub can eat at least 50 caterpillars. These medium to large, blue-black beetles hide under stones and logs/boards during the day. At night they prey on cutworms, cabbage root maggots, snails/slugs and their eggs. Some ground beetles will even climb trees and feed on armyworms or tent caterpillars. 

Rove beetles – These small to medium beetles look like earwigs without pincers. Many of this species help in decomposing manure and plant material, while others prey on root maggots.

Syrphid flies – Also called flower or hover flies. Imagine a pest-killing machine devouring enormous numbers of aphids, up to 400 during this stage.  these black and yellow or black and white striped flies are commonly mistaken for bees. Laying their eggs in aphid colonies; the larvae then feed on the aphids. 

Tachinid flies – Large, dark grey flies that place their eggs and larvae on cutworms, caterpillers, stinkbugs, and other pest insects. Tachinid flies are also natural suppressors of armyworm or tent caterpillar outbreaks. 

Dragonflies – Along with the smaller Damselflies, dragonflies feed on mosquitoes, gnats, and midges, filling their mouths with prey as they zig-zag around the garden. As adults, dragonflies eat other insects and can consume hundreds of mosquitoes in one day! They are valued as predators, since they help control populations of harmful insects. Dragonflies are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic. Adult dragonflies do not bite or sting humans. 

Firefly larvae are predators of various insects, slugs, and snails.

Lacewings - As with most garden "police" insects, the lifecycle is the secret and the law enforcement is all in the larval stage. Larvae, often called "aphid lions," are among the most efficient predators of aphids. They also prey on the eggs and immature stages of small, soft-bodied insects such as mealybugs, thrips, spider mites and leaf-hoppers.
The larvae, which resembles a tiny alligator, feed on small insects including aphids, scale insects, and corn flies.

Spiders and Mites – Although they are not really insects, spiders are some of the best pest predators around, feeding on the larger pest insects. Predatory mites, also arachnids, feed on plant-feeding mites, such as spider mites, rust mites, and cyclamen mites. Some will also feed on aphids and corn flies, while other soil-dwelling mites eat insect eggs, fungus gnat larvae, or decaying organic material.

Scarab Beetles - Many scarabs are scavengers that recycle dung, carrion, or decaying plant material. Most of these beetles are nocturnal; except for the Flower Chafers and many Leaf Chafers, which are active during the day. 

The name "Robber flies" reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits; they feed mainly or exclusively on other insects and as a rule they wait in ambush and catch their prey in flight. feed on small arthropods, mainly insects.

Beneficial Nematodes are microscopic, non-segmented roundworms that naturally occur in soil and are used to control soil pest insects. They only attack soil dwelling insects without exposing plants, earthworms, humans or animals to any health or environmental risks. Thus totally a safe biological control in pest insects. Inside the nematode's gut is the real weapon..symbiotic bacteria that when released inside an insect kill it within 24 to 48 hours.

Most of the wild creatures need a natural habitat to accomplish their work. Although many of these areas have been reduced in the past, recently more are being restored to attract the creatures back. Each of us can help to restore habitats even if we don’t completely understand how ecosystems work and cannot fully return an area to its wild state. Planting Nirgudi (Vitex Nigundo) for butterflies, providing organic growing conditions for plants that bees visit for pollen and nectar, choosing garden plants that are first and foremost beneficial to wildlife (not primarily because they are beautiful), helping to keep an existing patch of forest from being destroyed to develop more concrete buildings, are within the capacity of most of us...

A Sword To Kill A Fly?

Do you face problems due to pests such as insects? What do you do to control these insects and to save your garden or farm?

We often resort to pesticides to deal with garden the pests. Let’s consider what happens when you attempt to poison pests. Pesticides don’t just control unwanted beetles and slugs. They often kill more than just the target nuisance, including beneficial natural predators like lady bugs. A general insecticide will kill the majority of bugs in an area, but more than 90 percent of them were beneficial or benign. Furthermore, if a pesticide gets into your soil, it may also harm soil organisms that help to keep your plants healthy. By their nature, pesticides present risk to animals, humans, and the environment because they are designed to harm living organisms. As time passes, they keep accumulating in our soil and water bodies.

In a balanced ecosystem, predators will be in the minority. In other words, in an environment, there are many more prey organisms to ensure a continuous food supply for the predators. In such an eco-system, there are huge numbers of prey including, aphids, white flies, cabbage worms, leaf miners, mole crickets, spider mites, and others that may be eating your crops, lawns, and landscape plants, but relatively few predator bugs such as assassin bugs and relatively few bug predators such as lizards, frogs, toads, birds and bats.

As your landscape recovers from the poisoning, bugs will begin to multiply again, but since you’ve killed off the beneficial insects that used to keep them under control, the predators that survived the poisoning have moved away to areas where they can make a living. Many harmful bugs, possibly including new pests that were previously controlled, will recover in even greater numbers than ever before. You spray again and the process repeats itself and each time the most damaging pests will recover in ever increasing numbers. Repeated poisonings often encourage resistance to that pesticide, and people then switch to even stronger poisons in higher concentrations. Thus, in short, you are choosing the most resistant pest to multiply and it is getting harder & harder to control these pests. 

It’s time to break that cycle of harmful pesticides and manage your landscape as a complete ecosystem by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Like an old Korean proverb - ‘Do not draw your sword to kill a fly’, there are many ways to control pests instead of resorting to pesticides.

Relying on insect predators and other eco-friendly strategies to control your pests is not a matter of sitting back and doing nothing. As with any other effective gardening method, it requires awareness, education, experimentation, effort and patience. While it’s easy to recognize the larger pest predators, identifying the good & the bad bug is more challenging, but it’s a vital step for ecosystem gardening. Many insects that we see are actually beneficial, such as butterflies, bees, ladybugs, lacewings and fireflies. For Example, Butterflies & bees perform the important function of pollinating our crops and flowers, helping plants to reproduce. Lady Beetles and lacewings eat aphids, scale insects, plant-feeding mites and insect eggs.

We have to have it in mind that it is pretty natural to have a few bugs nibbling on your plants. If you keep your soil and your backyard ecosystem healthy, Mother Nature will normally keep things from getting out of hand. The discovery of one caterpillar in a row of thriving vegetables is quite natural. One possible solution is to expect and tolerate a certain amount of pest activity.

When control of pests is necessary, there are many options to choose from before resorting to pesticide. The best way to control pests is to head the problem off before it gets started. Plant a diversity of Native plants that bloom all year. Many predators supplement their diets with pollen and nectar, so the same blossoms which make your garden beautiful will tend to attract the insect predators that you need to defend it. One may also choose from wide range of cheap IPM methods like installing insect traps, pheromone kits etc. Plant some nectar-rich flora alongside the vegetables and along with beauty, you will get protection too! Try and find out which Good bugs are there in your they are working day & night to look after your garden!

Bee Positive!

Albert Einstein once quoted as saying “If the bees disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Though it isn't entirely obvious, it is true that if bees & other pollinating flies were to disappear, humans would have no way to pollinate plants. If we were unable to pollinate plants, we would be unable to grow them, which of course, would lead to worldwide famine and eventually human extinction as well. The good news is there are things we can do to stop honey bee extinction before it becomes devastating.

Why Honey Bees and other flies are going extinct..?

No one knows the exact reason. Biologists have several theories and the real reason is likely to be a combination of several of these theories. One such theory is based on the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides that are being ingested by honey bees as they collect pollen from plants and flowers.

Another popular theory as to why honey bee populations have decreased is due to global warming. Though the warming of the Earth is not affecting the bees themselves, it is causing increased populations of mites, viruses and fungi, which are in turn, killing off the bees.

The third popular theory on possible bee extinction is due to vulnerability to electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is specifically caused by cell phones and wireless communication towers.

Though it is possible that honey bees can become extinct, it is imperative that we stop the process of honey bee extinction now, before the devastating results are able to set in. As you can see, taking small steps in your own yard or neighborhood can bring safety and results in the race to save bees. Since we share this Earth with other creatures, it is only fair that we offer a helping hand when possible. It could, indeed, save human-kind as well.

Bees and flowering plants have a mutually dependent relationship which has developed over the eons in such a way that it benefits both the plants and the insects; they both need each other.

The bees’ food is provided entirely by the plants they visit. To attract the bees to the plant and consequently as a reward for their pollination services, plants provide bees with nectar & pollen.  Nectar is a food source rich in energy and pollen is a source of protein, used by young bees. Honey bees turn the nectar into honey and store the pollen in the cells of the honeycomb.  Storing food allows honey bees to survive in times of scarcity and across a wide range of habitats and climatic conditions, making the honey bee one of the earth's most adaptable species.

While honey bees and other insects are visiting flowers to feed, they spread pollen from one plant to another. Bees and trees are interdependent and have been perfecting their relationship over the last 50 million years or so bringing about pollination and the production of viable seed. Trees do not need bees simply for their own reproduction but for maintenance and regeneration of the whole system within which trees exist. The more species of fruits & seeds generating within an ecosystem, the greater its diversity and the richer its life carrying capacity. Trees and bees represent a truly harmonious symbiosis. Rural people can generate income from this symbiosis while at the same time helping to safeguard natural habitats by the sustainable use of bee resources. 

In most developing countries, the main honey sources come from trees. Beekeepers can protect their honey harvest by protecting the trees and plants that give the bees both food and shelter. Many honey bearing trees have other useful purposes as well, so protecting trees not only helps the bees, but also improves & preserves the local environment and enhances other strands of the bee farmers' livelihood.

One independent study has found, the losses of wild pollinators from agricultural landscapes could threaten global crop yields. One has to understand how the losses of wild pollinators impact crop production. The more wild pollinators a field contained, the more fruit it produced. Farm should include habitat for both honeybees & wild insect.

However, great changes have taken place over the last 50 years and the over-exploitation of forest now threatens the very existence of humankind. Because the value of trees is not fully appreciated trees are often disregarded during the expansion of other agriculture. One of today's greatest challenges is to save and protect forests and find sustainable management systems that provide food and income for future generations. The loss of forest resources will result in the loss of honeybee colonies as well as other essential pollinators.

Forests worldwide are of priceless ecological value; they prevent soil erosion, control flooding, affect rainfall, store and recycle nutrients, and provide habitats for vast numbers of plant and animal species. Beekeeping is therefore central to community forestry activities. The trees are essential for the survival and production of bees. Trees provide materials for beehives as well as the parent colonies and herbal materials that aid hive colonization. Trees protect the colonies from extremes of temperature while the floral diversity within the forest provides a sound basis for a sustainable beekeeping sector. The bees pollinate the tree flowers helping to regenerate the resource and the involvement of beekeepers in community forestry projects improves people's participation and leads to greater protection of the resource. It is important to understand the multi purpose value of trees and forests if we are to have any hope of conserving existing forests or developing new forest activities. Income from bees may be one of the fastest ways to bring profitability from more long term community forest projects.

There are three things EVERYONE of us can do to help bees :-

DO provide an environment safe for bees, free from pesticides and pollution.
DO provide good food sources for bees - flower-rich, diverse, with long seasons.
DO maintain bee habitats with nest sites as well as food and water. 

The next time you see a bee buzzing around, remember that much of the food we eat depends significantly on natural insect-mediated pollination - the key ecosystem service that bees and other pollinators of cost!

Compost : From Garbage to Garden...

From last post, we have come to know that for solid waste management, there is no throwing ‘away’. The solid waste can be out of our sight, but not out of our environment. Everything we are doing to manage the waste is directly or indirectly affecting us and our ecosystem through pollution.

Composting is a great way of recycling unwanted food scraps & yard waste into a useful garden additive. There is a bit of work involved in composting, but the extra effort well is worth the resulting nutrient rich soil amendment. 

There are many different ways to make compost, with no one method being right or wrong. Many people will try to tell you the ‘proper’ way to compost. But the fact is good compost can be achieved with whatever materials you have available; provided it is biodegradable and free of chemicals, disease or other toxins.

As I previously said, there is no right or wrong way to compost. However, there are good & bad things to compost. Try your own mix of ingredients until you find a recipe that works for you.

The tree leaves that accumulate in and around your landscape represent a valuable natural resource that can be used to provide a good source of organic matter and nutrients for use in your landscape. I have seen many urban dwellers who want to get rid of these fallen leaves. Rather they consider these leaves as nuisance. Either they burn them or send these leaves to dumping yard. Being both of the ways wrong, You must remember that there is no word as ‘waste’ in Mother Nature’s dictionary. Everything that comes from Nature has to go back or it will harm us all. The leaves needs to composted and given back to our soil. It is an established fact that the trees in one acre of forest shed as much as two tons of leaves each year. You may complain that your neighborhood outdoes any forest, but be thankful. Save your leaves. And if your neighbors don’t want them, hang on to theirs. It makes no sense to send valuable treasure to the dump or to burn them!

In forests, sacred groves (देवराई) and pastures, tree leaves and other organic wastes form a natural carpet over the soil surface which conserves moisture, modifies temperatures and prevents soil erosion and crusting. In time, bacteria, fungi and other natural occurring organisms decompose or compost the leaves and other organic material, supplying the existing plants with a natural, slow release form of nutrients. You can, and must, take advantage of this same concept. 

It may be a long process, but I can’t think of any one reason not to make compost for use in your garden. It’s free, simple to do and made from a resource that is never in short supply.

There isn’t anything much easier than making leaf mold. If you have some space in your garden, this is a good way to start composting. While making leaf mold, one can add their kitchen scraps to the pile. This way, he/she can reduce the amount of waste (or a resource!) going to dumping yard.

You want to begin by making sure the leaves are thoroughly moistened. Dry leaves begin to lose nitrogen and this will slow the process of decomposition. There are a few ways to turn leafs into one of the most valuable additives you could put in your soil.

Be sure to mix more brown materials than green materials into your pile to prevent terrible odors. That means you should add more dried stuff such as dried leaves, stalks or straw than the green stuff like fresh yard trimmings, Kitchen vegetable scraps, Weeds, Dead houseplants, Garden debris and cow/horse manure. 

The materials like diseased plants, Meat, bones or fish, glossy paper etc should never be added to a compost pile.

An easy ambitious method is to make a 3 feet by 3 feet cage using stakes & wire. You just have to pile up the leaves in the cage. To ensure even decomposition it is advised to turn the pile occasionally. Always sprinkle water if pile starts to dry. Or you can also rake your leaves into a pile in your yard and leave them there for a year or so. Remember to cover green scraps by dried leaves.

If you have a proper condition for earthworm’s proliferation, then you can get your compost within a really short period of time. Vermi-composting is a way to make high quality compost using earthworms. Worms are food eating machines. Once you have an active worm bin, your kitchen scrapes will quickly become a nutrient rich organic fertilizer.

Some urbanites residing in apartments may excuse that they do not have space required for composting. They can use method which usually consisting of aerated Matkas or drums. There are many NGOs or shops selling these types of compact composting units which can easily fit in your balcony or terrace. One has to have the will, then only there will be a way! Watch this video of Vani Murthy, who composts in her own apartment.

Once the leaf mold is ready, you can use it in many ways. Leaf mold is one of the best soil conditioners, it helps to loosen the soil, making it less dense & easier for roots to penetrate and take up nutrients.

Soil Enrichment - Leaf mulch returns nutrients back to the soil. Your plants and garden will require less or no fertilizer and other additives.

Water Conservation - Leaf mulch helps retain moisture in soils. When soil is covered with leaf mulch, the mulch lowers the soil’s exposure to sun and wind which reduces evaporation.

Save Money - By managing your biodegradable waste on site, you eliminate the costs of pick up & transport and fuel to landfill, making you a more responsible earth inhabitant. 

Insulation - Mulch acts like an insulating barrier from the heat in the summer, from the cold in the winter and from the wind all year round. Mulch prevents compaction and erosion of soils from wind and rain.

Weed Control - Leaf mulch can help prevent the growth of weeds. Add a thick layer (2 to 3 inches) to gardens to reduce the need for herbicides.

With all these great uses why not turn your kitchen and yard waste into a free source of all natural nutrient rich soil additive/fertilizer..?! Composting is a growing solution to solid waste management. Today, knowledge and interest in the science of composting is increasing dramatically. Whether an ancient art or a modern science, composting is a useful and environmentally sound gardening practice for you.

Don't waste the Waste..!

Well… we all have heard, talked or read about the three R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycling. There is nothing new about them, isn’t it?! But we hardly implement them in our day-to-day life. And that may be because we don’t know or understand the necessity to implement them and about their outcomes. What the R’s are for..?

Nashik is fast growing city. And like any other developing city, our municipal corporation is facing countless challenges due to increase in urban populations such as crowding, transportation, traffic, slums, water supply, power shortages, drainage, and above all, pollution. Pollution is the result of many variables. While air pollution and water quality get maximum share of attention, one pollution source that is largely ignored, though it often stares us in the face is Solid Waste.

Solid waste is defined as non-liquid material that no longer has any value to the person disposing it. Commonly known as garbage, rubbish or trash. Solid Waste Management (SWM) is usually the largest budget item for cities, especially in developing countries. Uncollected solid waste is often the leading contributor to local flooding, air & water pollution and can have an enormous impact on health, local environment as well as on the economy. As cities become larger, consumption of goods and services increases leading to more & more waste. Nashik generates about 450 tons/day of waste. That will be roughly around 165 Metric tons/year. Guess what will be the waste generation of whole world. We need to look at SWM quite seriously now onwards.

This is Garbage Dumping yard of Nashik located near 'Pandavleni'. Everyday, whatever Garbage Vans pick up, is dumped over here. Forget the sight, but it generates terrible smell which one can not stand even for few minutes. To add fuel to the fire, corporation started burning the garbage to create more space for more ‘garbage’, thus making it one of the most polluted area! Basically, Burning or Incineration of waste is not a solution at all! 'Worsening the waste' is what I call it! Burning releases very poisonous & harmful invisible gases Dioxins which are dangerous to human as well as birds & animals. In simple words, burning your waste will result in Landfills in the Sky. With all these, the residential area is not very far from the place. Almost all nearby societies complain about the smoke and smell from the site. The picture speaks for itself. There are people working in this horrible condition for management of this huge amount of garbage, which is increasing day by day. And most of all, the waste management is taking away huge amount of taxpayer's money.

Dumping or Land-filling is the most commonly used method for waste control in developing countries, with many of the dumps in the developing world being open dumps and unsanitary landfills, polluting nearby aquifers, water bodies and human settlements.

How much amount of garbage must be here? Guess... My camera couldn't cover every corner even in it's wide angle. Please see the following image full screen. And just try to compare the height of a human standing in blue outfit near the rising smoke with the height of the garbage mountain...

With no proper planning for waste disposal in place, there is no surprise that our precious but easy resources are over exploited and garbage mountains are being increasingly seen everywhere and the residents are slow-poisoned by the emissions of the burning.

Keeping our cities clean begins with each one of us. When we walk down the streets in our cities we see litter all around us - sometimes garbage bins have more litter around them than inside them. It is so easy to blame the litter and accuse paper, plastics, tin foil and food waste for making our environment dirty and unhealthy. But does paper, plastics, tin, foil and food waste appear magically on our streets and in our neighbourhoods? No, it’s thrown away and disposed of irresponsibly by each one of us!

Waste management in our cities continues to be a problem due to our littering habits and inadequate waste management systems. If we as responsible citizens use and dispose of waste correctly, we can contribute to protecting our environment, conserving natural resources and keeping our cities clean. A waste reduction strategy must be incorporated by each of us whether at home or at work by following the 4R's principle. Yes! Lets add one more R before rest of them.

REFUSE : I think, this is more important principle than the rest 3R. Refuse the single use or disposable products. Items with unnecessary complex packaging can also be refused and to see what can be deleted from our shopping list!

REDUCE : The best way to manage waste is to not produce it. This can be done by shopping carefully and being aware of our choices. Ex. at work, one can cut down on paper use. At home you can begin by purchasing things with lesser packaging, more durable & refillable items, carry your own shopping bag, avoid disposable items and reduce the use of plastics. 

REUSE : It makes economic and environmental sense to reuse products. Sometimes it takes creativity. You can reuse old bottles, jars as storage bins and buy reusable items rather than disposable ones.

RECYCLE : It is a series of steps that takes a used material & processes, re-manufactures and sells it as a new product. Segregate your waste for better disposal and purchase recycled/green products. A ton of paper from recycled material conserves about 7,000 gallons of water, 17-31 trees, 60 lb of air pollutants and 4,000 KWh of electricity. 

The four R's - all help not only to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away, but they also conserve natural resources, landfill space & energy.
Plus, the these R's save the soil or land and money used for landfills.


We can sell unwanted newspapers, glass bottles, old electronic items to the raddiwallas and kabadiwallas (waste traders) - because there is a value in them. There is value too in the waste we dispose of everyday. We can unleash this value only if each household separates its waste into wet and dry. Then may be, we'll all come to know : Waste is actually a resource!

Wet Waste: Food, vegetable peels, egg shells and other organic materials. These are easily biodegradable and can break down and become compost or soil within a short period. Therefore, this waste should go into a compost pit. You can build your own vermi-compost pit in your colony/home and convert all wet waste into useful compost. This would reduce the pressure on our landfills also.

Dry Waste: Paper, plastics, tin, foil, glass, cloth and other materials that do not biodegrade. These materials can be recycled and made into useful products.

Better administration and public infra-structure are an immediate necessity in lower income countries. Most importantly, public attitude needs to be changed as soon as possible. And the change should start from oneself. Unless there is a shift towards a more responsible attitude, no enduring solution is possible. Public education that informs people of options to reduce waste, increase recycling and composting are a good starting point. There is also a need for the design of longer-lasting and reusable products. Municipalities can encourage people to form groups, segregate waste and process it at their end. Repairing, donating, selling and reusing products when possible, especially in the case of e-waste, is also essential. For example, only 5% of India’s electronic waste gets recycled due to absence of proper infrastructure and legislation. And last but not least, each & everyone of us should make an sincere effort to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse And Recycle..!

Today is 5th Anniversary of Gifting Trees. Let us join hands to reduce the load on dumping yard. We all must have a goal of reducing the amount of waste going into landfills by 40 percent. Everyone can help meet this goal and save natural resources, energy and money by following the four R's. Reducing waste also means conserving our limited resources. 

Plastic : A Boon or Bane?

Whether you are aware of it or not, plastics play a big part in our day-to-day life. Plastic is used in everything from cell phone parts to doll parts and from soft drink bottles to the refrigerators they are stored in. More clothing is made out of polyester and nylon, both plastics, than cotton or wool. It’s used in food packaging, as building materials and most of our electronic devices. We wrap stuff in it and even eat or cook in it. From medical devices that keep blood flowing, joints moving and heart beating to impact-resistant vehicle parts, plastic saves lives every day. From the vehicle you ride to the television you watch; plastics are everywhere around us… quite literally!

Very few inventions in modern history have been as successful as plastic. It has resistance to corrosion & chemicals, low electrical & thermal conductivity, high strength-to-weight ratio, colours available in a wide variety, transparent, resistance to shock, good durability, low cost, easy to manufacture, resistant to water and so on. Due to which, the uses of plastic have grown exponentially huge in growing range of applications, especially over the past couple of decades. 

Plastic is everywhere not because it was better than the natural counterparts it replaced, but because it was lighter and cheaper; so much cheaper, in fact, that it was easier to justify throwing it away after use. Customers found this single-use or disposable plastic convenient, and businesses were happy to sell them a new plastic container for every beverage or sandwich they bought. Starting from a biscuit to chips to grocery, each & every eatable comes wrapped in plastic. People often leave stores with dozens of plastic bags that just get thrown away. 

But what happens to that beverage bottle or food container or shopping bag after we are done? It is disposed of as garbage, which eventually ends up in landfills or oceans or burnt. There it remains indefinitely.

The accumulation of plastic material in the Earth's environment is known as Plastic pollution. Plastic has toxic pollutants that damage the environment and cause land, water, and air pollution; adversely affecting wildlife, wildlife habitat and humans too!

Households generate maximum plastic waste, of which water & soft drink bottles form a large number. Very less of the total plastic waste is being recycled. Some plastics have fibres which shorten with every time it is recycled. Thus, a plastic can be recycled only few times before it is no longer recyclable. Such plastic ultimately finds their way to landfills or dumping yards.

Overuse of plastic is the main cause of plastic pollution. But it doesn’t decompose, and it releases an incredible amount of toxins into the air & water if they’re burned. It can take hundreds or even thousands of years for plastic to break down, so the damage to the environment is long-lasting.

But, does plastic ever break down?

No one exactly knows how long plastic takes to break down, but it is believed to take hundreds or even thousands of years.

Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just get smaller and smaller (Microplastics). According to a recent report, plastic fragments have been found in the digestive tracts of animals in Mariana trench, the deepest part of the oceans. It is not just the accumulation of plastics that harms the environment - it is also the fragments and toxins released during decomposition that pollute our soil and water. Many of these tiny plastic particles are swallowed by farm animals or fish who mistake them for food. Surprisingly, plastic have also found their way onto our dinner plates. They’ve also been found in a majority of the world’s tap water. The findings illustrate how incredibly wide humanity’s impact on the planet has become. We are almost trapped in plastics. 

The seas near Mumbai and Kerala are among the worst polluted in the world. Plastic debris affects at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species, and 43% of all marine mammal species. If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

By clogging sewers and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and pests, plastic waste - especially plastic bags - can increase the transmission of vector-borne diseases like malaria or dengue.

In addition to harming plants, animals, and people, it costs billions of rupees every year for cleanup of areas exposed to plastic toxins. Many regions have seen a decrease in tourism because of the amount of pollution in their environment, which can have a serious impact on local economies.

Our Earth is drowning in plastic pollution. While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic - which have severe environmental consequences.

Are there any Solutions to the Plastic Pollution?

Unfortunately, we can’t remove or ban plastic completely. But we can definitely reduce the disposable plastic use. We, consumers can help fix the problem by making an effort to reduce plastic waste by using reusable bags while shopping. We have to change how we source our food (like buying more at local markets and from farmers), and to make retailers change their food sourcing practices (without plastic packaging). Likewise, drinking from a reusable water bottle instead of a disposable one, avoiding to-go containers like coffee-shops cups, straws and restaurants containers, avoiding to buy household products packed in plastic etc are great ways. After reducing plastic use as much as possible, one can send plastic to recycle. Jars, milk jugs, bottles, broken plastic housewares and even items like ink cartridges can be recycled. The waste-traders will be happy to do that and you will be delighted to make some money.

Even small changes in your day-to-day life can add up and greatly reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment.

Plastic pollution has a big impact on the environment, but plastic waste isn’t unavoidable. Every time you make the choice to avoid or recycle plastic products, you lower the risk of environmental damage. Be conscious of your choices, and encourage those around you to think twice before they throw away plastic or buy unnecessary plastic items.

Waste is everybody's responsibility. A waste reduction strategy can be incorporated by each of us whether at home or at work by following the Reduce - Reuse - Recycle principle. This will not only reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfill, but turn waste into a resource & also save our fast depleting natural resources.

We need to slow the flow of plastic at its source, but we also need to improve the way we manufacture, use, recycle and how we manage our plastic waste to minimize its impact on our environment. Because right now, a lot of it ends up in the environment.

Remember, Plastic is the symptom. Our littering habits and irresponsible attitude towards waste generation is the disease. Plastics do not litter, We do!