Oct 14: Plastic Waste Management – https://youtu.be/vjiZVGaAmHQ
- GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Plastic Waste Management
In 5 minutes, around the time it takes to read this piece, around 5 million plastic bottles will be bought around the world, many of those in India.
If not recycled, plastic can take a thousand years to decompose.
- According to a report on Plastic Waste Management released by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the global average of plastic per capita consumption is 28 kg and India has a per capita plastic consumption of 11 kg.
- The CPCB Report of 2019-20 states that 3.4 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India annually.
Managing plastic waste is increasingly becoming a global environmental and economic challenge.
- Plastic waste is a risk to public health as it enters our food chain, creates congestion problems in drains, causing flooding, ends up in river beds and oceans, depleting ecosystems and marine biodiversity, and makes solid waste management more expensive as landfills and open incineration do not provide an acceptable solution for disposal.
- The production process for plastic produces greenhouse gas, thus contributing to climate change.
- At landfills, it disintegrates into small fragments and leaches carcinogenic metals into groundwater. Plastic is highly inflammable — a reason why landfills are frequently ablaze, releasing toxic gases into the environment. It floats on the sea surface and ends up clogging airways of marine animals.
Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021
Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
- These rules prohibit identified single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
- The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022.
- In order to stop littering due to light weight plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September, 2021, the thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from 50 microns to 75 microns and to 120 microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022.
- Currently the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibits manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of carry bags and plastic sheets less than 50 microns in thickness in the country.
- The plastic packaging waste shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) of the Producer, importer and Brand owner.
- For effective implementation of EPR, the Guidelines for the same being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
- The Central Pollution Control Board, along with state pollution bodies, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties already prescribed under the Environmental Protection Act.
- States/UTs have been requested to constitute a Special Task Force for elimination of single use plastics and effective implementation of the rules. A National Level Taskforce has also been constituted for coordination efforts.
The Way Forward
As individuals: We can reduce our plastic pollution and be more environmentally conscious by avoiding single-use plastics (e.g. straws, cups, cutlery, etc.) and packaging materials (e.g. polybags). Instead we can use jute bags, glass bottles or jars, steel or ceramic cutleries and utensils, and paper-made tetra packs.
The private sector needs to invest more in producing alternatives and biodegradable plastics and in phasing out the production of plastic. More research and technology investment and development is required to make alternatives to plastic that are economically viable and affordable.
The government should play a leading role by
- Enacting strong policies and regulations that will encourage a more sustainable model for the design and production of plastics – Local bodies mandated under rules to ensure segregation, collection and transfer of waste to registered recyclers have spectacularly failed to fulfil their responsibilities. The State Level Monitoring Committees provided for under the rules have not been made accountable. The waste management framework is dysfunctional
- Technical and financial incentives from the government are instrumental for the transformation of the existing production system to a more sustainable one.
- Urban local bodies: Urban local bodies across states should adopt the material recovery facility (MRF) model & implement it as a public-private partnership model for sustainable management of urban plastic waste. Urban local bodies are mandated under the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, to manage municipal solid waste and plastic waste at the city level.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Essay: There is no Plan B because we do not have a Planet B.
- What are the sustainable strategies to address the problem of plastic including e-waste? Discuss.