New Delhi: 40 per cent of an estimated 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated every day in India remains uncollected, informed Union Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javdekar in the Lok Sabha. He said, “India generates anywhere between 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, out of which 40 per cent goes uncollected.”
The minister noted that the collection of the plastic was a key issue to address environmental concerns as the uncollected waste continues to damage the environment for several years. He also said that the demand of plastic has also increased significantly in the past few years due to the increased use of plastic in the fast-moving consumer goods sector. He adds, “Approximately 15,384 tonnes per day, which is 60 per cent of the total waste, is collected, but the remaining 10,556 tonnes per day of the plastic waste remains littered in the environment as it is not collected. If rules need to be changed, we can discuss it. Plastic has become a big problem in the country.”
Minister Prakash Javdekar informed that he will be calling a meeting of state environment ministers next month for better implementation of plastic waste management rules which were notified in 2016.
Plastic-Free Country – Still A Distant Dream, Experts Raise Questions
In 2018, during the 45th World Environment Day celebrations, India took the pledge to eliminate all single-use plastics – carry bags, straws, and water bottles among others from the country by 2022. Then in 2019, during HIS Independence Day speech, PM Modi initiated a ‘Plastic-Free’ campaign and said from October 2, 2019, a blanket ban on single-use plastic items will take place. But so far the government has not issued an official notification for such a ban, though states have initiated different forms of plastic ban.
Highlighting the plastic crisis and the issue of plastic waste management in India, Swati Singh Sambyal, Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Municipal Solid Waste), Centre for Science and Environment, said,
First and foremost, the government needs to identify the most problematic Single-Use plastic items and then come up with a solution to manage those. Secondly, a National Action Plan or guideline needs to be made for the implementation of a plastic ban in a phase-wise manner.
Ms Sambyal also said that the government should focus on waste management as a whole wherein collection, segregation and recycling is involved. She added, “currently, in our country, most of the municipalities are struggling to even implement waste segregation properly, the mandate for which came in the year 2017.”
Speaking to NDTV, earlier this the year when the government initiated the plastic-free campaign, actor and United Nations Environment’s Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza commented the only way India can be successful in beating plastic pollution is if extended producer’s responsibility (a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility for the collection and treatment of post-consumer products) is taken care of.
It deeply concerns me that a circular economy is still a distant dream for India. I think if there’s one thing that will enable us to manage our waste better, it is an extended producer’s responsibility*, when all the stakeholders – civil society, government and waste producers come together and prioritise waste and plastic management.