Editorial✍ Financial Express

Incentivising collection key to Plastic Waste Management

clear disposable bottle on black surface
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Fast growing plastic industry in India:

  • In India, the plastic industry is among the fastest-growing markets, owing to its use in a wide variety of sectors such as the automotive, construction, electronics, healthcare, and textile sectors.
  • It is expected that this growth would be further driven by initiatives such as ‘Make-in-India’, ‘Skill India’, and ‘Digital India’ among others.

Highly polluting:

  • The same plastic that is powering our economy is also grossly polluting our environment.
  • About 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste generated each day.

Not handling plastic well:

  • But there is no organised process to deal with it.
  • We need to enhance the effectiveness of collecting used plastic and reusing or recycling it, so as to achieve better economic and environmental outcomes.

 

India’s plastic waste management

  • India has shown serious intent to curb plastic waste.
  • The Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules 2011 were introduced under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

PWM Rules, 2011:

  • Responsibility to ULBs:It established a framework that assigned responsibilities for plastic waste management to the urban local body (ULB), and also  set up a state level monitoring committee.
  • Curbs on plastic bags:The rules also addressed the issue of carry bags by setting minimum standards for thickness and a mandate for retailers to charge a fee for each plastic bag made available.
  • The 2011 rules were succeeded by stricter PWM Rules 2016.

PWM Rules, 2016:

  • It lay the foundation for accountability across the value-chain.
  • Extended producers’ responsibility (EPR):
    • The new rules require producers and brand-owners to devise a plan in consultation with the local bodies to introduce a collect-back system.
    • This system, known as the extended producers’ responsibility (EPR), would assist the municipalities in tackling the plastic waste issue.
  • The rules also state that the manufacture and use of multi-layered plastics that are hard to recycle must be phased out.

 

Challenges in implementation:

There are major challenges to implement PWM 2016 and the array of other legislative initiatives at the local level.

Infrastructure lacking for collection and segregation:

  • Lack of adequate infrastructure for segregation and collection is the key reason for inefficient plastic waste disposal.
  • Most municipal corporations still do not have a proper system of collection and segregation, given their lack of access to technology and infrastructure, which are needed to dispose of plastic waste in a cost- and resource-efficient way.
  • There is a need for collective efforts from the Union/state governments and municipalities in developing and using the infrastructure.

Lack of processing facilities:

  • The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, mandate ULBs to set up facilities for processing sorted dry waste.
  • However, the implementation has been rather bleak, owing to available land/space concerns.
  • ULBs could a take cue from c ities like Bangalore where dry waste collection centres have not only been established but also have a self-sustainable business model.

 

Municipalities must reach out to people for segregation:

  • Source separation of waste, coupled with segregated collection and transportation, have been weak links in the waste supply-chain.
  • Imposing penalties or fines is easier said than done in a democratic setup.
  • Municipalities must develop waste collection plans, coupled with outreach activities, to sensitise citizens on waste segregation.

 

Monetize the waste:

  • One way to ensure better collection of plastic waste is to ensure that the ‘junk’ has a value attached.
  • There is a need to create a business model that assigns a monetary value to waste while simultaneously financing the collection process.

 

Some states have banned plastic:

  • Many states and union territories across India have introduced a ban on plastic bags.
  • Maharashtra recently declared a ban on single-use plastics, one that will be enforced starting June 23, giving vendors, consumers and the plastic industry three months to find alternatives to single-use plastic.

Blanket ban on plastics should be the last resort:

  • Banning should be the last resort after all recycling efforts fail.

 

Recycling of good quality should be the preferred option:

  • There are often a finite number of times a plastic is recycled before it ends up in the landfill.
  • Recycling has to ensure that wastes are converted into products of the same quality, if not better, compared to the original product.
  • Else, recycling only delays the travel of the product to the landfill.

 

Mandating cost on plastic bags could work:

  • Explicit pricing of plastic bags had been a feature of the 2016 Rules, and it was beginning to bring about a change, albeit gradually.
  • The success of imposing a plastic bag fee has also been established in cities like Chicago and Washington, showing that such interventions could be effective in shaping behaviour change.
  • Thus it was surprising that The PWM Rules Amendment, 2018, omitted explicit pricing of plastic bags

 

Conclusion:

  • Managing plastic waste in India can be achieved, but it is not going to be easy.
  • Our policies must promote collection, recycling and monetising of waste.
  • Promoting the use of biodegradable plastics would also go a long way in managing plastic waste in India.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Environment

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