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RSTV IAS UPSC – Say No To Plastic

  • IASbaba
  • September 12, 2019
  • 0
The Big Picture- RSTV
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Say No To Plastic

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TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

In news: Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to shun single-use plastic and encouraged the usage of jute and cloth bags to protect the environment. The PM urged startups and experts to find ways to recycle plastic, like using it in building highways, and appealed to shopkeepers to have boards in front of their shops saying, “Please don’t expect plastic bags here. Bring cloth bags from home or take them from us at a price”. 

  • On World Environment Day last year, the government had announced its intention to phase out single-use plastic like straws and cups by 2022. These include plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws and certain types of sachets.
  • According to the Environment Ministry, about 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day in the country, out of which only 13,000-14000 tonnes are collected. Experts have maintained that the problem lies in the inadequate collection and recycling systems. 

India lacks an organised system for management of plastic waste, leading to widespread littering across its towns and cities.

  • The ban on the first six items of single-use plastics will clip 5% to 10% from India’s annual consumption of about 14 million tonnes of plastic, the first official said.
  • Penalties for violations of the ban will probably take effect after an initial six-month period to allow people time to adopt alternatives, officials said.
  • Some Indian states have already outlawed polythene bags.
  • The federal government also plans tougher environmental standards for plastic products and will insist on the use of recyclable plastic only, the first source said.
  • It will also ask e-commerce companies to cut back on plastic packaging that makes up nearly 40% of India’s annual plastic consumption, officials say.

After China, India is the largest economy contributing to marine pollution. Dotted with underdeveloped recycling and waste management sectors, the ban on import of waste will have an impact on investment opportunities in the Indian recycling sector. But to even out that concern, investment scene will still look bright as India has exhibited the necessary political will to further this cause. 

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2018 came along to reduce and manage plastic waste. Very significantly, it included the introduction of extended producer responsibility under which, the producers are made responsible for collecting and processing waste. Also, there are a number of projects for the recycling sector already in the pipeline, but not executed so far due to lack of capital. Start-ups could engage in this initiative and make financing projects easier. A flow of capital will encourage investors to contribute to the cause. Given India’s sprawling size and a boost to entrepreneurship, recycling and waste management sectors have ample scope to thrive. 

What is Plastic Pollution?

Plastic pollution is when plastic has gathered in an area and has begun to negatively impact the natural environment and create problems for plants, wildlife and even human population. Often this includes killing plant life and posing dangers to local animals. Plastic is an incredibly useful material, but it is also made from toxic compounds known to cause illness, and because it is meant for durability, it is not biodegradable.

It costs millions of dollars each year to clean affected areas after exposure, not to mention the loss of life to plants, animals, and people. As land becomes more valuable, just finding a place to dump the garbage is becoming a problem in many parts of the world. Plus, excess pollution has led to decreased tourism in affected areas, significantly impacting those economies.

From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival. The mission to end the plastic menace must include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 per cent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behaviour concerning plastics.

How to get rid of the plastic menace?

  • Leading a grassroots movement to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution.
  • Educating, mobilising and activating citizens across the globe to demand that governments and corporations control and clean up plastic pollution.
  • Educating people worldwide to take personal responsibility for plastic pollution by choosing to reject, reduce, reuse and recycle plastics.
  • Promoting local government regulatory and other efforts to tackle plastic pollution.
  • Education and responsibility are only one side of the coin, however; the other side is infrastructure. The technology to create a circular economy by means of recycling does in fact exist, but the infrastructure needed to fully implement it is seriously lacking. Of all the plastic waste produced in the world, less than 10% is recovered due in large part to the lack of infrastructure both at home and abroad.

Can construction of road be the solution?

At a time when the entire world is grappling with disposal problems of huge volumes of plastic waste, road construction provides a solution to plastic waste. To increase recycling rates, in 2015, the Indian government made the use of plastic waste in the road construction industry mandatory.

In this process, plastic products made of PET, PVC, HDPE, LDPE and polypropylene are first sorted from plastic waste, cleaned, dried and shredded. Once all the plastic waste is shredded, it is heated at 165 degree Celsius. Next, the shredded pieces are added to a bitumen mix, which is also heated at 165 degree Celsius. The final mix is used for constructing roads.

India has built 100,000 kilometres of roads in at least 11 states using discarded plastic since 2015.The roads made from waste plastic are more durable against extreme weather conditions like floods and heat as compared to conventional ones, points a report by the World Economic Forum. According to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, one tonne of plastic waste is used with nine tonnes of bitumen to lay a kilometre of road. Depending on the quality of tar, 10-30 per cent of it is replaced with the waste plastic.

In terms of economics, the plastic-layered roads are cost effective. To prevent plastics from reaching landfills and entering water bodies, recycling of plastic waste to build roads in the states and national highways should be stepped up further.

Incidentally, plants making fuels such as diesel and petrol from plastic waste have been built by the Indian Institute of Petroleum. The fuel obtained from the conversion of plastic is completely environmentally friendly due to the absence of any toxic substances. Apart from producing petrol and diesel, this technology will also ensure that urban and semi-urban areas become plastic-free.

Case Studies

  • E-Waste in Colombia

Colombia became the first Latin-American country to launch a national policy for e-waste management in 2017. The policy established four fundamental objectives. 

  • Firstly, to educate consumers towards responsible consumption and to develop instruments to ensure that electrical and electronic equipment imported or produced in the country will be properly managed once they become waste. 
  • Secondly, the strengthening of the national recycling industry and finally, to promote public-private partnership. The country sees around 2.5 lakh tonnes of e-waste generated every year.
  • Waste for Healthcare in Indonesia

Arguably, one of the most innovative approaches to waste management was the Garbage Clinical Insurance in Indonesia. The brainchild of award-winning healthcare entrepreneur Gamal Albinsaid, CEO of health company Indonesia Medika, it is health microinsurance program which uses garbage as financial resources. Community pay clinic service using garbage. This way the community mobilizes their own resources to improve health access and breakdown barrier between health facilities and community.

  • Waste Minimization in Singapore

For the small island nation of Singapore, with a population of over 4 million living across 697 square kilometers, waste was a crucial problem. While its waste-to-energy incineration plants and offshore sanitary landfill for disposal of non-combustible waste is often highlighted by policymakers, the real star in their waste management problem is their move towards waste minimization. The main portion of non-combustible waste for Singapore stemmed from construction waste, industrial sludge that had been stabilised and copper slag from margin industries. But over the years, much of this has been diverted. For instance, by 2005, the country was recycling almost 94 per cent of construction and demolition waste.

Given the facts and extensive research behind it, plastic most assuredly needs to stay and the time, energy, and resources currently being spent on costly alternatives and detrimental bans ought to be committed to the building up of infrastructure, furthering of education, and continued innovation within this amazing field. Only then will we be able to create a truly circular, sustainable economy and clean environment.

Must Read:

Are We Drinking Plastic?

The Lacunae of Plastic Ban

Connecting the Dots:

  1. What are the sustainable strategies to address the problem of plastic including e-waste? Discuss.

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