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.
- 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
- 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.
GS Paper III: Environment