So, right in front of our car is a bus. And somewhere, way ahead, is a closed railway gate. It’s a hot day. The bus is a long-distance bus, but not of the luxury sort.
The situation presents a business opportunity.
Sure enough, along comes a man with a cloth bag. There are plastic straws in a plastic pouch in his shirt pocket. His bag is full of plastic pouches with buttermilk and he takes out a couple of pouches and waves them out to the passengers in the bus. Hands wave back at him.
Business is brisk. Dozens of packets are sold. Some passengers even get down to buy them.
The vendor walks away.
And then the plastic packets start flying out of the window, sucked empty. Straws, too. They are thrown by the persons inside the bus, who do not even bother to check if anyone is passing near the bus; one packet almost falls on a scooterist who is trying to squeeze his way to the front of the winding queue of vehicles.
I’m sure you can picture what happens.It has taken just a few minutes and a buttermilk vendor to convert a relatively clean stretch of roadside mud to a splatter of discarded plastic.
We are a culture without dustbins. I don’t think the bus had a dustbin; roads rarely do, anyway. And I don’t think anyone would have even looked for one, because these things are all inter-connected–people don’t look for or demand dustbins, they don’t expect them. They also don’t miss them. Packets can always be thrown out of the window, right?
Years ago, too, there were such buses, such vendors, such quenchers of thirsts. But the buttermilk was supplied in glasses that were collected back. Or in glass bottles that were paid for, and the money refunded when the bottle was returned. Or in earthen cups.
Not in plastic packets that won’t bio-degrade.
And here’s a thought: If they priced plastic packets to take into account the environmental costs, I suspect we’d be serving buttermilk in washable and collect-back glasses again.