On Plastic pollution

Relevance: Plastic pollution

News: India’s track record in managing plastic pollution compares poorly with that of many other countries.

The latest global Plastic Management Index, ranks India 20th among 25 major plastic-producing nations.

What are the reasons?

Lack of infrastructure: According to the Central Pollution Control Board’s estimates, India produces 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. The per-head plastic generation, has doubled in the past five years. But the infrastructure for proper handling and disposal of the used plastic stuff has not expanded.

Consequently, the plastic trash lands either at garbage dumping grounds or is scattered on roads, waterways, and other public places.

Negligence in enforcing the regulations by local authorities and pollution control bodies: For instance, “Extended Producer Responsibility” principle that binds the stakeholders to collect the same amount of plastic as they generate for proper recycling or disposal remains largely on paper.

What are the negative implications?

The problem concerns mostly the single-use plastic products that tend to last in the ecosystem almost forever because of their non-biodegradable nature.

Impact on Environment: The discarded plastic items, causes traffic hazards or blocking drains, inundating the surrounding areas.

Impact on Live stocks: Stray cattle die, in trying to ingest plastic bags.

Impact on Humans: Human beings also run the risk of plastic toxicity on consuming food items, especially cooked food, packed in non-food grade plastic containers.

What are the steps taken?

The government had announced phasing out single-use plastic carry bags with thickness of less than 50 microns, by September 2021 and other items by the end of 2022.

India had piloted, and got passed, a resolution at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019 to mitigate the menace of single-use plastic pollution at global level.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, the has been updated recently, contains several well-advised measures to control plastic pollution.

Few consumer goods companies using plastic materials have prepared plans to reduce their plastic footprint to turn plastic-neutral in a phased manner.

What is the way forward?

At present, the bulk of the plastic rubbish is handled by the unorganised sector, including rag-pickers and waste-dealers (kabadiwalas). They need to be made part of the overall plastic waste management system, as they are serving essentially as aggregators of junked plastic stuff.

The governments and pollution control boards at both Central and state levels has to ensure strict implementation of plastic waste-handling policies and norms.

Source: This post is based on the article “Plastic pollution” published in Business Standard on 22nd   Dec 2021.

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