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Plastic Waste Taming the Untamed

by Clean India Journal Editor
0 comment

While India has taken up plastic waste management aggressively by introducing policies, automation and collaboration with corporates and other professional bodies to educate and implement segregation, disposal and recycling of waste, there is still a long way to go to achieve the target of 100% retrieval of plastic produced. Our esteemed panellists at the Waste Management & Technology Conference in Mumbai, Aniket Gavas, BDM & Sustainability, The Shakti Plastic Industries. K. Ganesh, Senior General Manager Corporate Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd, Ashish Jain, Director, Indian Pollution Control Association, Suraj Nandakumar, CEO, RECITY Network Pvt. Ltd and Zakaria Joy, Founder & CEO, Northamps ENV Solutions, CEO, RECITY Network Pvt. Ltd, discussed how issues facing implementation could be overcome and what would be the way forward in the coming years.

As a company, we started collecting all the plastic we had put into the market and from 2021 we became a plastic-neutral company. We have taken the initiative for plastic waste management and since 2015 have collected 7000 metric tonnes of plastic. This initiative has been a great success and we have received a lot of appreciation and support from the municipal corporations.

K Ganesh

EPR and its impact

India has adopted the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy to focus primarily on the recycling of consumer products like plastic to minimise the environmental impact of waste materials. It was expected that EPR registration would include all plastic producers, however, the government has exempted Medium and Small Manufacturers. Since they represent about 80% of the industry, a large segment of producers is yet to be covered under the policy. While compostable and biodegradable plastic are not considered under EPR, the policy does not differentiate between virgin and biodegradable plastic. Though both are transparent, virgin plastic is not biodegradable and it could create complications and hinder the recycling process.

Simplifying automation

In the years before 2022, plastic producers would submit hard copies of documents to the Central Pollution Control Board annually. Since the CPCB had neither the time, manpower nor space to store and verify these documents, it took the initiative to develop an online portal. This was a good start, but teething problems like difficulty in uploading thousands of invoices during year-end, duplication of invoices and incomplete data in dashboards persist and need to be resolved. Small vendors, who do not have trained staff should also be able to register and upload documents with ease. Educating stakeholders on the use of the portal was important. It is expected that in the next seven years, by 2030, there would be greater enforcement of regulations in the area of plastic collection on stakeholders like brand owners, producers, importers, re-users and recyclers.

What needs to be understood is India does not have a plastic pollution problem, we have a waste management problem. We have coconuts, cloth, electrical waste, and so many other kinds of waste. Fortunately, or unfortunately, plastic is considered the cheerleader of this entire discussion, but the problem is much bigger.

Suraj Nandakumar

Source segregation

Plastic is not waste and can be recycled. If every individual segregates waste at source, each item will go to its respective stream and get recycled. Brand owners have taken up the responsibility to reach out to stakeholders like educational institutions, corporates and housing societies and train them on how to segregate and dispose waste responsibly. Such initiatives have resulted in the collection of thousands of tonnes of plastic for recycling.

Addressing gaps in planning and infrastructure

Creating a problem statement to identify the core need of an urban local body (ULB) is the primary task of an urban planner. When corporate India interacts with an urban local body or city administration, the urban planner acts as the intermediary who identifies gaps and writes down the problem statement. Corporates provide a professional approach with clear price points and quality specifications to convert a mismanaged landfill into an opportunity for CCR. This is a boon for the urban local bodies. While town-planning departments are scaling water supply systems, electrification systems and drainage and stormwater systems, the same level of depth in developing waste management systems is missing.

If we start considering waste as a resource, we will solve the maximum number of problems.

Ashish Jai

Strengthening urban local bodies

As per the Municipal Corporation Act 1947, waste management is the mandate and responsibility of the ULBs. Though the ULB is the owner of the waste, the moment it enters the municipal stream, it is the recyclers who command the EPR. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the urban bodies by having better collection systems and state-of-the-art recycling infrastructure so that they can offset the cost of solid waste management. Currently, waste management is a cost centre and the ULBs are funding it from public and property unit taxes. If one totals all the fees collected across municipal corporations and municipal councils, the annual budget of solid waste management would be sizable.

Role of consumer

The producer manufactures the packaging material which finally goes to the consumer. However, while the EPR policy mentions the responsibilities of producers and recyclers it does not define the role and responsibility of the consumer. The material is available for recycling only if the end consumer is ready to clean and segregate it, so his role is important for the success of the policy. The EPR also gives the benefit of credit to the consumer for cleaning, segregating and handing over for recycling, thus rewarding him.

If the consumer does the segregation, it can go to the recycling facility.

Zakaria Joy

Western or indigenous technology

Problems faced in India are very different from that of the West. Plastic consumption patterns differ in India. In the South, one will find clean, flexible plastic and in the North, packaging is multi-layered. Consumption is impacted by seasonal changes too. Therefore, solutions have to be customised and technology will have to be indigenously developed through R&D and defined processes. Given that major stakeholders like the central and state governments, parastatal organisations, corporates, recyclers and civil society organisations are focused on the problem, solutions cannot be far behind. It is expected that by 2030, India will have achieved 100% collection of plastic produced.

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