Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022 05:30 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022 00:00 [IST]

One step at a time

We are the world's third-largest producer of single-use plastic waste. The ban on single use plastic, effective from July 1, has been heralded as a key step to tackle this menace that accounts for most of the plastic thrown worldwide, clogging landfills and polluting the environment. From July 1, the country will prohibit the sale and use of a range of around 20 common single-use plastic items such as ear buds with plastic sticks, ice-cream sticks, straws, disposable cutlery and packaging film for cigarette packets, among others.
But will the ban serve the purpose of actually minimising the plastic wastes? The jury is divided on this. And there are industry concerned.  The major challenges with plastic are segregation and re-aggregation of plastic waste streams such as packaging waste. Lack of awareness and poor solid waste management in cities have resulted in littering of plastic, which ends up reaching our food chain. Simply banning single-use plastics might not eliminate the problem. We need to strengthen waste management practices by segregated collection and processing the waste through material recovery facilities.
And there are economic concerns. Thermoformers and Allied Industries Association (TAIA) on Monday urged the government not to impose a blanket ban on single-use plastics from July 1 and instead do it in a phased manner. Plastic plates, cups, glasses and trays are made from single-use plastics and the imposition of a ban will stop the manufacturing of these products and kill the Rs 10,000-crore size industry that employs 2 lakh people directly and 4.5 lakh people indirectly, it said. The products that they manufacture are 100 per cent recyclable but are put under the blanket ban. The relaxation has been given to manufacturers of carrying bags, bottles and multi-layered plastics (MLP) but not to them, the TAIA said. Plastic carry bags and bottle makers have been given different specifications for phasing out the manufacturing of these products. For instance, manufacturers are allowed to produce 75 microns plastic carry bags till December 2022 and after that they have to shift to 120 microns and above. The TAIA appealed to the government to allow single-use plastic product makers to use above 200 microns or 4 grams plastics for up to two years and by then the industry will find an economically viable alternative material. The government has suggested using biodegradable plastics instead of single-use plastics. But the biodegradable plastic is expensive and largely imported and using such an expensive material is unviable for manufacturers and becomes expensive for end-users. The blanket ban will affect the packaging of food, beverages and agricultural produce. There are 850 manufacturers engaged in making single-use plastic products in the country.
Opposition from the plastics industry will make it tougher to effectively implement the ban, given how poorly existing bans have been enforced--as seen from a recent order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT)-and due to shortcomings in the draft notification, such as questions over alternatives to SUP items, experts say. While it is impossible to weed out single-use plastic through only a blanket ban, it can be successful with a robust circular economy, tech-based startups and waste management companies plugging the gaps.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi