Call me pack-phew. I am the new sustainability mascot for WhatPackaging? – here to tell you why we need to talk about sustainability and the myriad topics that come with it.
Let’s start with some statistics. A global material balance study of plastics indicates that 79% of all plastic produced worldwide ends up in our environment as waste. Only 9% of all plastic waste worldwide is recycled. A report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) (2018-19) puts the total annual production of plastic waste in India at a whopping 3.3 million tons per year. Even this data, as terrifying as it is, could be an underestimate. While India’s plastic waste problem is not as big as that of the rich world, it is definitely growing. Richer countries like Goa and Delhi produce up to 60 grams and 37 grams per capita per day, respectively – compared to a national average of 8 grams per capita per day.
Against this background, the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) published a background paper on plastic waste and its disposal last year. You can download the paper here.
In a post-release webinar, Sunita Narain, Director General of the Center for Science and Environment, said, “In such a scenario, how will India ever achieve its goal of“ ridding ”the country of single-use plastic? In fact, the 2020 pandemic only made matters worse: the use of plastic – especially single-use and single-use items – has increased many times over. “
Covid-19 and plastic waste
Has Covid-19 Accelerated India’s Plastic Waste Problem? Yes, of course. Take a look at yourself. How much take-out, grocery, and eCommercial deliveries did you receive during the lockdown? We’d assume it was more than average. Now consider all the plastics that were produced in these deliveries and that you conveniently disposed of in the garbage can that your Kachdawalla took in your neighborhood and therefore disposed of in a landfill. Now multiply that amount by the number of households in the country. You get the idea – the number is huge.
So Narain was right when she said, “We imagined that we would solve the problem of plastic waste by recycling, burying it or moving it out of sight. But we were wrong. Plastic waste is everywhere today. It’s on our faces. It fills our oceans and destroys marine life and even invades our food chain to get into our bodies. Our per capita consumption of plastics is growing – and when we get richer, we will end up producing more plastic waste. “
So what’s the solution? Industry would answer – recycling. The industry in India claims that 60% of the production produced is recycled. If so, why is plastic still such a big problem?
Handling plastic waste
Perhaps it is time to deconstruct the word recycling and understand the politics of recycling. The plastic waste disposal agenda will depend heavily on our understanding of recycling – what it’s about, who can recycle, what can be recycled, and how economical the process is.
CSE also recommends a number of other measures. These include phasing out or banning products that cannot be recycled (such as multilayer plastics); Prohibit carrier bags; Clearly define single-use plastics and prohibit articles made from them; make the rules and guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) simple and enforceable; Create incentives for the recycling business; and segregate at the source – this is where the local authorities have to be involved.
Phasing out single-use plastic by 2022?
Meanwhile, the Union’s Ministry of the Environment has proposed enforcing a nationwide ban on the manufacture, use, sale, import and handling of some single-use plastic products by 2022. The ministry issued a draft notification on March 11th, which stipulates how various uses of plastic products will be gradually banned over the next year.
For example, the production, import, storage, distribution, sale and use of earplugs with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice cream sticks, styrofoam for decoration will be banned from January 1, 2022, the ban on plates, cups, Glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays, wrapping / packaging foils for confectionery boxes, invitation cards and cigarettes made of single-use plastic (including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene) expanded packages, plastic / PVC banners below 100 microns and stirrers from 1. July 2022.
The center has also decided to increase the thickness of the polyethylene bags from at least 50 microns to at least 120 microns from September 9, 2021.
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Has Covid-19 Accelerated India’s Plastic Waste Problem?