A Reality Check
- Our cities are littered with non-biodegradable plastic material, and it is greatly adding to environmental stress and degradation.
- India’s ban on certain items that are defined as single-use plastics has come into effect from July 1, in the midst of enormous pressure from certain industries to defer the deadline. The objective is to identify items of everyday utility that are used once and thrown and added to litter.
- Single-use plastics are objects made of plastic that is intended to be used “only once” before being disposed off or recycled.
- The list of banned items includes earbuds, cutlery, straws and carry bags (of thickness less than 120 micron, by December 2022) but the current list of banned items is not comprehensive.
- Some experts argue that if the aim is to get rid of the items that are difficult to collect or are single-use, then this list should have included multi-layered packaging as this is what is used in almost all fast-moving consumer goods—from chips to shampoos to gutka pouches. This is the real menace when it comes to plastic contamination because these items are almost impossible to collect and absolutely impossible to process.
- The government says that all packaging material has been included as part of the extended producer responsibility (epr) notification which sounds good on paper, but there are huge problems in the way EPR has been designed or is being implemented.
- Eg: There is no information on the quantity of this plastic material or the waste the company generates. Under EPR, companies are required to recycle or reprocess the material they collect only by 2024.
- EPR refers to “Extended producer’s responsibility” meaning, the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life.
- The companies that manufacture or consume plastic material are required to take it back and send it for reprocessing.
- As per CPCB report, as many as 25 states and Union Territories have already banned the carry bags but the states say it is difficult to regulate this item based on plastic thickness and enforcement is inadequate. This is why implementation of the new ban will make or break India’s fight against plastic waste.
- The way ahead is to ensure that ubiquitous plastic items in our daily lives are recycled or disposed of safely for which a 3 pronged strategy can be followed:
- The plastic produced and used should be collected for disposal.
- The waste plastic material must be recycled or incinerated—it should not reach landfills or choke our water bodies.
- The reuse or disposal has to be in a manner that is environmentally friendly and does not end up creating more pollution or health hazard for workers.
- At the foremost, those plastic items that are difficult to collect or recycle should be eliminated from use.
- The most contentious issue which is none other than “Recycling” needs to be looked upon and needs to be implemented at every stage.
- Thus, it is time we understood this menace and its impacts so that we become responsible for our own waste and not use the banned items today, and ask for more to be banned tomorrow.