New Delhi: Deemed as India’s largest waste creator for three years in a row, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Maharashtra set out to change that and took a significant step towards fighting the garbage problem by launching a state-wide plastic ban on June 23, 2018. Under this ban, the state government prohibited the manufacture, use, sale, distribution and storage of all plastic materials, including single use bags, spoons, plates, plastic bottles and thermocol items. According to N.N. Gurav, Regional Officer, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) the state is taking multiple steps to reduce plastics to not only address the increasing burden on the state’s landfills but also to keep plastic from entering the sea and harming the aquatic eco-system. Through the strategic implementation of the plastic ban, and with cooperation of the urban local bodies, the state has been able to reduce the plastic waste generation by half, informed Mr. Gurav.
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Talking about the achievement of the ban, Mr. Gurav told NDTV,
In Maharashtra, till one year ago, the plastic generation was 1200 tonnes per day which has now reduced to 600 tonnes per day. This is an achievement but we are only half way yet. We still have to work on cutting the use of plastic altogether.
Implementation And Impact Of The State Wide Plastic Ban
According to Mr. Gurav, under the state-wide ban, the state has collected a fine of Rs. 4.1 crore from 6,369 offenders in the past one year. He said that highest fine – Rs. 3.4 crore – was collected from the capital city Mumbai alone. As many as 1.57 lakh visits have been made by the state officials in last one year to ensure and monitor the implementation of the ban. During these visits, a total 935 tonnes of plastic has been seized till now out of which 60 tonnes have been seized from Mumbai.
Talking about the impact of plastic ban on total waste generation of the state, Mr. Gurav said,
Last year plastic waste was six per cent of the 23,700 tonnes per day (as on June 30, 2018) of solid waste generated in the state and now after one year of the ban, it has reduced to 3.5 per cent. However, the current figure for June 2019 total solid waste generation of the state will be know after a month as we are still compiling the data received from municipal corporations but it is expected to increase by a minuscule percentage.
As per the data collected by MPCB from municipal corporations across the state, 75 per cent of the seized plastic has been disposed of. While the exact data on the seized plastic usage is not currently available with MPCB, the official asserted that most of the seized non-recyclable plastic goes to waste to fuel plants and Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plant where the plastic is compressed and converted into pellets and later used as fuel while the recyclable plastic goes to the recycling plants and some plastic is also being used in road construction projects.
As part of its ban implantation strategy, the state government has taken on board food companies and manufacturing firms that are also working on complying with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which makes the companies responsible to manage the post-consumer waste. These companies have recruited PROs (Public Relations Officer) and have also set up more than 200 collections centres at various places across the state where consumers can deposit the empty bottles, wrappers, and packages of the respective companies.
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Highlighting the significance of a state-wide plastic use ban, Swati Singh Sambyal, Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Municipal Solid Waste) at Centre for Science and Environment, said,
Banning plastic use in the whole state is certainly a way to reduce plastic waste and Maharashtra’s plastic ban is no doubt a successful state-wide ban in India till now. Apart from municipal corporations, the state government has been able to rope in a lot of waste generating organisations and companies which is a good move for cutting plastic at source. Within first three months of the ban itself they were able to collect about 30 metric tonnes of plastic waste.
However, Ms. Sambyal also pointed out that without affordable and easily available alternatives, the sustainability of a plastic ban cannot be ensured. She emphasised on the need for research on finding sustainable alternatives to replace plastic which is almost a staple in many households.
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Steps Taken By The State Government To Implement The Ban
Apart from bringing companies on board with the plastic ban, the MPCB has been conducting workshops for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) on ways to implement the ban in a better way. Along with this MPCB also trains ULBs on documenting the plastic inventories every day which include recording the category of plastic coming in from which area every day as part of confiscation and under the buy-back scheme. The pollution control body in collaboration with local bodies has been conducting awareness generating programs for the general public and tourists by making announcements, displaying posters and signages and distributing cloth bags.
The State Department of Environment has also been running a buy back scheme to reduce plastic waste and as per MPCB 10,000 tonne of plastic has been collected under this scheme till now. Mr. Gurav shared that through this scheme the rag pickers and waste collectors who were not getting a good price of the collected waste earlier are now making good income by selling the waste to the authorized dealers under this scheme.
Recently the State Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam has announced further intensification of the ban and said that industrial units that produce or use plastic will not be given any extension for exhausting their plastic stock.
“With their best practices like ‘plastic buy back’ initiative, single-use plastic monitoring and documenting plastic inventories, the state government has streamlined plastic waste collection, sorting and management. While there is still a need of intensifying the plastic crackdown and the efforts cannot be called as perfect, the state has definitely made noticeable progress which other states can take lessons from,” asserted Ms. Sambyal and said that other states must also take note of the best practices being carried out in the state to cut plastic use.
Hoping that the ban imposed by the state government would be sustainable and successful in eliminating plastics, Radhika Mittal, a 29-year-old architect based in Mumbai shared that the people have now started realizing the importance of ban which was not a welcome move last year among the vendors and shopkeepers. A resident of South Mumbai, Radhika said,
The impact of the ban is visible. I see shopkeepers and even some roadside vendors using paper plates and cups and cutlery made from leaves called ‘pattal’. It is a positive sign, I believe. Being an environment enthusiast myself, I used to struggle a lot whenever I used to ask my friends, family and colleagues to avoid using single-use plastic but since the ban has been imposed, they have at least understood that plastic is bad while they have not gotten rid of the plastic habit yet.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.