Plastic – Recycle & Re-use
The notification of the Ministry of Environment
and Forests to ban the manufacture and use of metallic pouches
and multi-layered plastic packaging under Plastics
(Manufacture, Usage and Waste Management) Rules, 2009
has drawn strong response from the plastic industry.
But what we really need is a plan of action!
Plastics exists to fulfill a need, it forms
much of the packaging for our food and drink. The versatility,
flexibility, durability and moisture resistant quality makes
it popular, ruling over the fact that plastic accounts for
3.9 per cent of India’s solid waste and its widespread
use causes unprecedented environmental problems and serious
The Plastics (Manufacture, Usage and Waste
Management) Rules, 2009 stipulates that no person shall
manufacture, stock, distribute or sell non-recyclable laminated
plastic/metallic pouches, multi-layered packaging and other
non-recyclable plastics. The draft rules also specify that
only those pouches or multi-layered packaging from biodegradable
plastic film, which meet BIS (Bureau of Indian Standard)
specifications, will be allowed. The Environment Ministry
has taken a good step in right direction, but how effective
the new law would be - is again a question?
D. Deb, a Packaging Consultant, feels that
the new law is an outcome of the pressure from global community.
“The world has seen the results that excess use of
plastic can bring. So, there is a wave of consciousness
everywhere,” he says. “But in a country like
India, the companies bounded in profit figures try to manipulate
measures for their personal benefits,” he opines.
Deb has rightly pointed on the pressure
from global community, as every country is working on developing
a successful model for banning the use of non-recyclable
plastic. In Australia the government has worked for more
than three years in developing a workable model. Six months
into South Australia’s ban on plastic bags, the state
government has labelled it a remarkable success. An estimated
200 million checkout style bags have so far been stopped
from entering the landfill and shoppers have been quick
to embrace the changes for the sake of the environment.
In UK the process started in the year 2006 and the country
achieved a cut in bag numbers of 26 per cent by the end
of 2008 (compared with 2006 figures). Comparing May 2006
to May 2009, 346 million fewer bags were used by supermarket
customers in that one month alone.
So, there is a gradual but effective plan
of action. “India should also think on the same panel,”
suggests Niranjan Vora from Dynaflex. He appreciates the
model where the Government of a country is working together
with industry to find a solution. “We have seen in
past that a blanket over night ban doesn’t work in
a country like India. It only creates corruption and chaos,”
Then what needs to be done?
Vora proposes a plan of action with the
day to day life related example, “Today do we see
a milk pouch on the road? No, whereas we see millions of
gutka pouches and potato chips packs. Why? This is because
if tomorrow each empty gutka pouch was bought by scrap dealers,
just like milk pouch is, for say even 10 paise per pouch,
people will collect it and sell it once or twice a month.
Milk pouch follows a similar route, the lady of the house
sees savings there - a financial incentive. Hence a collection
system is in place by default without the requirement of
a government ban or rule.”
So, what the government needs is a smart
thinking and give tax breaks to products made of recyclable
material, tax the plastic bags less which are made of reused
material and levy more tax on products, goods, or companies
which use non recyclable or non reusable packaging. “We
know that when some need is being fulfilled, someone else
is profiting from it,” says Vora. “So, less
taxed material would come up as a first choice among the
companies to make profit.”
K. Anand from Paharpur 3P finds the plastic
disposal to be more important an issue than a ban on its
usage. “Plastics have become an integral and indispensable
part of modern life at an affordable cost. With the constant
growth in consumption of plastics, there is potential increase
in the amount of plastics going in to the waste stream.
Many developed and developing countries are now facing serious
problems in managing the disposal of plastics waste. The
immediate plan should be to form a panel from the Industry
and the Government. Nandan Nilekani who heads Unique Identification
Authority of India, which is galloping, thinks on the same
line. He feels that without the involvement of industry
in the planning, Government can not conclude on a workable
Anand believes that the plastic waste can
be recycled to make containers, mobile flooring system,
plastic benches, auto parts, industrial fibers, base cups,
car stops, playground equipment, plastic lumber, flower
pot, toys etc. According to him the plastic waste can be
converted into liquid fuel or can be used in resurfacing
roads where Government support is required for such entrepreneurs.
“Innovative ideas on the usage of plastic waste and
its disposal is the need of the hour,” he declares.
Several associations and non-profit organizations
have also taken up the issue and are working towards spreading
awareness. “We need a non- profit body like The Waste
& Resource Action Programme, WRAP,” proposes Vora.
“It is a nonprofit department created in 2000 as part
of the UK Government's waste strategies and its mission
is to help develop markets for material resources that would
otherwise have become waste. It provides advisory services
to local authorities and helps influence public behaviour
through national level communication programmes,”
It is estimated that more than 100 million
tonnes of plastic is produced every year all over the world;
in India it is only 2 million tonnes. The use of plastic
in India is 2 kg per person per year while in European countries
it is 60 kg and in US it is 80 kg. With these figures, the
control on manufacturing and usage of plastic seems easy
for India, but only if the proposed law in this direction
seems applicable. The Environment Ministry has invited comments
from the stakeholders on the draft rules, following which
the execution will be decided.