Local manufacturing, cheap prices defeating ban on plastic carry bags in India: Study

12 months ago Vishwa Mohan | TNN 0

India has been proactive in framing rules to deal with disposal of plastic waste with even the use of thin plastic carry bags (thinner than 50 microns) being banned, but the the measures and efforts are faltering due to lack of enforcement as sale and stocking of thin bags continue in most states and union territories.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to save cows from plastic two years ago had spurred local authorities but littering of plastic waste and cattle feeding on garbage, including plastic, in cities is a common sight and plastic pollution can be seen even in rural areas including eco-sensitive ones like hills and sea coasts. These non-biodegradable pollutants continue to clog drains, gutter and rain water vents besides making soil, air and water bodies toxic.

A discussion paper by the sustainable development think-tank TERI – released by Union environment secretary CK Mishra in the run up to the World Environment Day(WED) – has highlighted how poor enforcement of existing rules led to indiscriminate littering of plastic waste, especially carry bags, causing severe environmental hazards.

Referring to a latest report of the CPCB, it said the manufacturing, sale and stocking of carry bags of less than 50 microns has continued in “majority of the states/UTs” post-ban. It noted that the effective implementation of ban on these plastic carry bags has been a challenge as hawkers and vegetable markets prefer its use due to “cheaper price and continued local manufacturing”.

India is the global host of this year’s WED on June 5 having ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ as its central theme. The Prime Minister is scheduled to chair its plenary session on June 5 when he is expected to make a strong pitch to end the menace of plastic waste. Modi referred to the campaign in some detail in his previous radio talk ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

According to the discussion paper on ‘plastic waste management in India’, the annual average per capita consumption of plastic in India at 11 kg (as against global average of 28 kg) is less as compared to US, EU nations and China, but the country lags behind these nations in disposing of plastic waste. It is estimated that India’s per capita consumption will rise to 20 kg by 2022.

But, how can India move towards waste proofing and implement ban on thin plastic bags which break into smaller pieces and get mixed with soil and water and even releases toxins in air?

TERI director general Ajay Mathur pitched for business models and technologies to make India a waste-proof nation. He said, “We need to enable collectors and recyclers to run these as profitable enterprises. Banning plastic is not a solution. Banning only makes sense when collection and recycling is not possible.”

The think-tank noted that while increase in plastic production is a positive indicator of economic growth, it certainly does not mean well for the environment.

Referring to reports and scientific papers, it highlighted how 0.60 million tonnes of plastic waste out of 5.6 million tonnes end up in seas annually in India. “The seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands are amongst the worst polluted in the world,” said the TERI while pointing out effects of plastic waste on marine environment.

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