Tuesday April 26, 2022

India fights to stem plastic waste

India fights to stem plastic waste

India is generating about 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually.

India is generating 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said recently as he launched several green initiatives for plastic waste management. “Plastic has become one of the most pressing environmental issues that we are facing today. India is generating about 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually and the per capita plastic waste generation has almost doubled over the last five years…Plastic pollution adversely affects our ecosystems and is also linked to air pollution,” he added. Minister Yadav then launched ‘Prakriti’, a mascot to spread greater awareness about small changes that can be sustainably adopted in the lifestyle for a better environment.

Various other green initiatives were taken by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to ensure effective plastic waste management (PWM) in the country, were also launched in the presence of the Minister of State, Ashwini Kumar Choubey and senior officials of the government. India has also become the first Asian country to develop a plastics pact, launching a ground-breaking new initiative to bring together leading businesses at a national level to make commitments for building a circular system for plastics. The India Plastics Pact (IPP) was launched as a collaboration between the World Wide Fund for Nature India and the Confederation of Indian Industry, and is supported by the UK.

Speaking on the third report by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an UN-backed science body, Bhupender Yadav said, “the report underlines the need for deep and urgent global emissions reduction and justifies India’s emphasis on equity at all scales in climate action and sustainable development. We welcome it.”

Yadav urged all the dignitaries and students present to work towards a better future by eliminating the use of plastic. He applauded the solutions developed by students participating in the India Plastic Challenge -Hackathon 2021 and start-up entrepreneurs in combating plastic pollution and highlighted the immense potential and talent of the youth.

But recent statistics cannot be ignored. Government and industry estimates suggest that India recycles only about 4 million tonnes of plastic. A lack of an efficient waste segregation system and inadequate collection is the root cause, according to experts, for much of the plastic not making its way to recycling centres. If there is no improvement in consumption patterns and waste management practices, there will be around 12 million tonnes of plastic litter in landfills and in the environment by 2050, according to CPCB estimates.

India is on its way to imposing a blanket ban on single-use plastic. Items such as earbuds, glasses, plastic flags, cutlery, glasses, etc., are to be banned from 1 July 2022, the CPCB has said. Single-use plastics includes all plastic which is less than 100 microns in thickness. As the name suggests, these plastic products have a one-time use before they are thrown away. Often these kinds of plastic are not disposed of properly, therefore not recycled.

The CPCB had earlier in the year notified producers, shopkeepers, street vendors and the general public about the ban on such items that the government considers as single-use plastic. Plastic bags of thickness less than 120 microns will also be phased out from Dec.31.

It has directed state boards to revoke or modify consents and registrations issued to producers of single-use plastics to ensure they have zero inventory by July 1.  The state pollution boards will also have to direct raw material manufacturers to stop supply and e-commerce companies to discontinue selling of banned items. They will also have to issue public notices in their jurisdictions and issue fresh commercial licenses to major stock hoarders, retailers, sellers, commercial establishments so that they will not stock or use the banned items. States have also been asked to frame local by-laws to levy compensations in line with central guidelines if the ban is violated.

However, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit organization, all the 20 items that are proposed to be phased out are not applicable to commodities that are made up of compostable plastics. India does not have an existing labelling mechanism to differentiate fossil-based plastics from the compostable ones. Also, a recent CSE report points out that plastic packaging (flexible and rigid) contributes to almost 60% of the total plastic waste generated. A lot of this packaging is discarded within minutes or days of being used. Plastic packaging waste, inscrutably, is not listed for being phased out.

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