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Half done: on the ban on plastic

News:

Recently, Puducherry has announced a ban on single-use plastics effective from March 2019.

Important Facts:

  • So far 22 States and Union Territories has taken some sort of initiative to eliminate the plastic but at large the concern remains.

Statistics on Plastic Use:

  • PlasticConsumption: 13 million tonnes/ year
  • AveragePer capita plasticconsumption:
    • About 11kg- low as compared to the global average of 28kg
    • An estimate by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India suggests that the annual per capita consumption in India would be 20 kg by 2022
  • Amount of Plastic waste generated annually: 16 lakh tonnes
  • Amountofplasticwasterecycled: 60% of the total waste generated
  • Top Plastic Waste Generating States in India: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka

Legislation in India:

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules (PWR), 2011:
    • It was introduced under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
    • The rules established a framework which assigned responsibilities for plastic waste management to the urban local bodies
  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016
    • The rules offer directives to urban local bodies and Gram Panchayats on segregation, collection, transportation, processing and disposal of plastic waste in their areas of jurisdiction
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018
    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018. The amended Rules lay down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastic (MLP) is now applicable to MLP, which are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use
    • Recommends a central registration system for the registration of the producer, importer or brand owner.
    • Recommends a national registry for producers with presence in more than two states, a state-level registration for producers operating within one or two states
    • Rule related to explicit pricing of carry bags has been removed.
  • Legislation Banning Plastic– Maharashtra, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Delhi and Chandigarh have enacted total bans on plastic bags

Issues with Plastic Waste Management

Banning:

  • The banning of plastic use has been of limited success. Primary reasons include lack of citizen awareness and poor implementation of rules. Also, the mobility of plastic waste makes state-wise bans difficult to implement

Waste Segregation:

  • Plastic waste is not properly separated at the source. Recyclability of plastic decreases when mixed with organic or sanitary matter.
  • According to CPCB report, Indian generates 16 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually. India can earn a revenue of Rs. 5600 crores annually by selling this waste at the global average rate of 50cent/kg. However, the economic benefit from recycling plastic has not been reaped. This is because; most of the cities lack a processing plant with a sanitary landfill site. They follow crude methods of waste dumping such as land filling of mixed waste

Recycling and associated issues:

  • Only 60% of the total plastic waste generated is recycled
  • There is a lack of recycling centers in most of the parts. Further, recycling in rural areas is a major challenge. Most waste processing and recycling facilities are located in urban areas

Issue with EPR:

  • There are no specific targets for producers, importers and brand owners. At present, EPR obligations are largely being met on a sporadic and scattered basis.
  • Further, Indian companies do not have plan for waste collection system to be done through own distribution channel or local bodies. The reason cited by companies is that the plastic waste is of complex nature. It is ubiquitous and not possible for concerned company to collect its packages only.

Lack of alternatives:

  • The price of biodegradable plastic products is higher than their synthetic plastic counterparts. A lack of affordable alternatives has been detrimental in implementing ban on plastic use.
  • The recent state-wide plastic ban in Maharashtra has faced criticisms from commercial bodies. They argue that a complete ban on plastics in the absence of affordable alternative is not a feasible option

The problem with banning plastic

  • Increased Usage of Other Plastic Bags – When plastic bags which are given for free in stores are banned, there may be a possibility of increase in other types of plastic bags people can purchase to fulfill the same jobs. Purchased plastic bags are thicker and a bigger threat to environment.
  • The Cost Would Hurt the Poor – Once the free plastic bags are completely banned, people will have to purchase reusable bags and as the demand increases, it will put the burden on poor.
  • Reusable Bags Aren’t Reused – Reusable bags aren’t usually able to be recycled and they can cause environmental problems when being used for landfills.
  • Economic Repercussions – Banning plastic bags may have negative impact on employment. Stores in areas that did not allow plastic bags saw a 10 percent drop in employment in Los Angeles.

Initiatives taken across the country

  • Reusable in government offices – Kerala Government has switched over to ink pens and steel cutlery to avoid usage of plastic products not only in Government offices but also corporate and private organization.
  • Fishing for plastic waste from water bodies – Under Kerala’s Suchitwa Mission, fishermen are engaged in not just finding fish but also plastic that either gets stuck in the fishing nets or floats in the sea.
  • Utilizing plastic for road surfacing – Many states such as Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are already considering to implement this tactic to manage their plastic waste.
  • Upcycling plastic for better purposes – Many industries in India are involved into recycling plastic into wide range of products from construction materials to threads and fabrics for the textile industry.

Way Forward:

  • As per CSE’s publication on Model Framework, major changes required in the plastic waste rules are concerning EPR. EPR targets have to be accounted for at the national level, irrespective of which state the products are sold or consumed in
  • Governments must start charging the producers for their waste, and collect it diligently, which will lead to recovery and recycling.
  • Moreover, deposit refund scheme system needs to be promoted in the states. At present only Maharashtra government notify a move in this direction.
  • An offset mechanism (the amount of equivalent plastic and packaging that the producers are able to recover and recycle) is required. Such mechanisms will be product and brand neutral and the collection will not be confined to the packaging of the producer.
  • Phase-wise implementation with yearly targets are required to ensure an effective implementation of the rules.
  • India in 2018, on Environment day pledged to eliminate single use plastic such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products by 2022.

Introduction

Recently, Puducherry has announced a ban on single-use plastics effective from March 2019.
Legislation in India:

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules (PWR), 2011: The rules established a framework which assigned responsibilities for plastic waste management to the urban local bodies
  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016: The rules offer directives to urban local bodies and Gram Panchayats on segregation, collection, transportation, processing and disposal of plastic waste in their areas of jurisdiction
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018: Recommends a central registration system for the registration of the producer, importer or brand owner.
  • Legislation Banning Plastic– Maharashtra, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Delhi and Chandigarh have enacted total bans on plastic bags

Issues with Plastic Waste Management

  • Difficult to implement banning
  • Waste Segregation
  • Recycling and associated issues
  • Issue with EPR
  • Lack of alternatives


The problem with banning plastic

  • Increased Usage of Other Plastic Bags: Purchased plastic bags are thicker and a bigger threat to environment.
  • The Cost Would Hurt the Poor
  • Reusable Bags Aren’t Reused
  • Economic Repercussions

 Some best Initiatives

  • Under Kerala’s Suchitwa Mission, fishermen are engaged in not just finding fish but also plastic that either gets stuck in the fishing nets or floats in the sea.
  • Utilizing plastic for road surfacing.

Way Forward:

  • EPR targets have to be accounted for at the national level, irrespective of which state the products are sold or consumed
  • charging the producers for their waste, and collect it diligently
  • Deposit refund scheme system needs to be promoted in the states
  • An offset mechanism is required
  • Phase-wise implementation with yearly targets are required to ensure an effective implementation of the rules.
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