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Year 2019: India Struggles To Reduce Its Plastic Footprint And Be A Plastic-Free Country By 2022

Here’s a look at the year 2019 and steps taken by India to beat plastic pollution and move towards achieving its goal of being a plastic-free country by 2022

Year 2019: India Struggles To Reduce Its Plastic Footprint And Be A Plastic-Free Country By 2022

New Delhi: According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, from the inception of plastic in 1950, annual global plastic production has increased dramatically from 2 million tonnes to 380 million tonnes a year in 2015. Scientists and researchers have already put it out there as a warning that if plastic consumption and its dumping continue at the current pace then by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fishes. India, on the other hand, is responsible for generating 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which 40 per cent remains uncollected, as per the recently published study by Un-Plastic Collective (UPC), a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative co-founded by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WWF-India to help eliminate plastic pollution in nature and move towards a circular economy.

2019: A Look At Steps Taken By India To Beat Plastic Pollution

India’s Airports Turned Single-Use Plastic Free: Last year, in 2018 on World Environment Day, India went big in their commitment to beat plastic pollution with an announcement that ‘India pledges to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022’. Reaffirming India’s pledge to become a plastic-free country, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at the start of the year 2019, in January made an announcement that 129 airports across the country will be made single-use plastic-free. The Airport Authority said that in these 129 airports of India single-use plastic items like straws, plastic cutlery, plastic plates etc will be strictly banned. Since then as many as 55 airports have been made single-use plastic-free.

Airports That Banned single-use plastic-free airports in 2019

  • Agartala
  • Ahmedabad
  • Amritsar
  • Bagdogra
  • Bhopal
  • Bhubaneswar
  • Calicut
  • Chandigarh
  • Chennai
  • Coimbatore
  • Dehradun
  • Goa
  • Guwahati
  • Imphal
  • Indore
  • Jaipur
  • Jammu
  • Kolkata
  • Lucknow
  • Madurai
  • Mangalore
  • Patna
  • Port Blair
  • Pune
  • Raipur
  • Ranchi
  • Srinagar
  • Tiruchirappalli
  • Tirupati
  • Trivandrum
  • Udaipur
  • Vadodara
  • Varanasi
  • Vijayawada
  • Visakhapatnam, to name a few.

AAI has also engaged the Quality Council Of India to check how effectively the ban has been implemented in THESE airports. AAI is also enhancing its waste management systems and is promoting the use of eco-friendly sustainable alternatives progressively such as the use of bio-degradable garbage bags in the bins and installation of plastic bottle crushing machines at the airports.

Kumbh, Celebrated As India’s Cleanest Festival: In the same month, January India’s biggest festival of the year – Kumbh Mela, which started on the auspicious occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’ on January 15 and ended on March 4 was celebrated as one of India’s cleanest festival. The authorities employed more than 20,000 sanitation workers, 1500 swachhgrahis (clean India volunteers) to educate and motivate people to keep the Kumbh premises clean.

Moreover, to keep a check on plastic waste, plastic bottle dispensing machines were set up for pilgrims and tourists to deposit plastic bottles. To attract more people to use the dispensing machines a unique scheme was introduced – deposit three bottles and get a cup of tea free.

2019 Parliamentary Elections Made Green: Before the general elections of 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in January laid down standard guidelines to be followed by all the states and Union Territories regarding single-use plastic and asserted that the government offices and events must completely ban all types of plastic for poll preparations and encourage the use of alternative materials for election campaign.

The National Green Tribunal, on March 4, also directed the Election Commission to decide on banning non-degradable materials, particularly single-use plastics in election campaigns. As a result, this time around the time, the election in the country was marked as a clean and green affair. PVC flex boards and other non-biodegradable material were replaced with a cotton cloth and a biodegradable material containing paper. Moreover, at many areas and poll booths, plastic trays were replaced with jute.

India Paved The Way To Combat Marine Pollution With New Partnerships: In February, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change announced two major collaborations with developed countries like Norway and Germany to help combat marine pollution. Marine litter is the fastest growing environmental concern and when it comes to India, the country dumps about 600,000 tonnes of plastic waste into the oceans annually. With a coastline of 7,500 kms, India faces a huge challenge in cleaning up its seas.

To help take on this mammoth mission to fight marine litter and also meet itS goal of becoming a plastic-free country by 2022, India announced two collaborations with Norway and Germany.

As part of India-Norway collaboration, a joint task force on ‘Blue Economy’, a concept relating to the exploitation and preservation of the marine environment, has been formed this year. This task force known as, Joint Task Force (JTF), includes government officials, researchers and experts as well as the private sector who will help lay down important policies and rule in the country in bid to deal with marine litter.

Read More: #BeatPlasticPollution: India Paves The Way To Combat Marine Pollution With Latest Partnerships

PM Modi Kick-Started ‘Plastic-Free’ Campaign On Independence Day: To further strengthen the plastic-free movement in the country, during his Independence Day speech, PM Modi initiated a ‘Plastic-Free’ campaign once again and said from October 2, 2019, a blanket ban on single-use plastic items will take place. PM Modi also urged citizens to make sure that we all stop using ‘single-use plastic’ and move towards a new India.

The plastic-free movement then was supported by people from all walks of life including Bollywood celebrities like Aamir Khan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Karan Johar, Soni Razdan, Anil Kapoor, Bhumi Pednekar, Dia Mirza to name a few.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi further launched Swachhata Hi Seva, a cleanliness initiative building up to Gandhi Jayanti on October 2 with a call to action ‘Say No To Plastic’ and ‘Make India Single-Use-Plastic Free’.

It was also being expected that the centre will impose a nationwide ban on plastic bags, cups, straws to name a few on October 2. But so far the government has not issued an official notification for such a ban, though states have initiated different forms of the plastic ban as their way to support the nationwide plastic-free movement.

Also Read: Can India Be A ‘Plastic-Free Country’ By 2022?

Solutions & Alternatives Taken By India To Beat Plastic Pollution

a. Plastic Ban: Major big states of India such as Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana have imposed a ban on single-use plastics at THE state level. On the other hand, nearly 26 states and UTs in India have imposed a blanket or partial ban on the use of plastic polythene bags under 50 micron. Last year, Rajasthan as a mark of respect to the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th Birth anniversary and to support PM Modi’s nation-wide plastic-free movement, decided that in the court premises of the state use of single-use plastic/thermocol in any manner will be banned.

b. Roads Made Out Of Plastic: After India’s announcement of being a plastic-free country by 2022 was made, many states came out with innovative ways to deal with the humongous amount of plastic waste – the states and its government decided to use plastic waste for the construction of its road. In the last few years, states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala have started using discarded/seized plastic for road construction activities.

A report by World Economic Forum on how good a solution it is to make roads out of plastic waste says that roads constructed using waste plastics are durable against extreme weather conditions, are cost-effective and pothole-resistant. So far, India has built one lakh kilometres of roads in at least 11 states using discarded plastic waste.

Though back in 2015, Centre made it mandatory for all road developers in the country to use plastic waste for road construction after Padma Sri Rajagopalan Vasudevan, who is also known as plastic man of India, a professor from Madurai’s Thiagarajar College of Engineering, laid out a process of building roads by recycling plastic waste, but it is recently the revolution of plastic waste roads started brewing in as India wage a war against plastic.

c. Food In Exchange Of Plastic Waste: This year, Chhattisgarh became India’s first country to open up one-of-its-kind garbage café, wherein food to the poor and homeless is being provided free of cost in lieu of plastic waste. The café has been opened up in India’s second cleanest city Ambikapur, under this initiative, poor and homeless people fetching 1 kg plastic waste will be given a full meal while those collecting 500 grams waste will get a substantial breakfast.

Taking inspiration from Chhattisgarh’s Ambikapur, Odisha’s Kotpad Notified Area Council (NAC) in Koraput district kick-started a similar initiative where poor people will be provided with cooked free meals in exchange for a kilogram of plastic waste. Similarly, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has also rolled out a SIMILAR plastic-free initiative under which it will serve a meal in exchange for a half kilogram plastic waste. The ‘Meal for Plastic’ initiative has been rolled out in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the state government’s Aahar Scheme.

Also Read: Chhattisgarh Bags Another Swachh Tag, Becomes The Most Efficient State In Waste Management: Government

In Telangana, the administration of district Mulugu has started a unique drive in all of its 174 villages, wherein each citizen will receive one kilogram (kg) of rice in return for each kilogram of plastic waste that they bring in. As part of the initiative, the district administration of Mulugu has set up plastic collection centres in each village.

Highlighting the importance of such solutions in beating plastic pollution, Mayor Ajay Tirkey of Ambikapur says,

The motto is simple – beat plastic solution. With steps like garbage café, we aim to involve people from grassroot level. These people can help the corporation in managing the city’s waste effectively and in return corporation will take care of them.

Also Read: Bring Your Own Container: Odisha’s Ganjam District Introduces Milk ATMs, Bids Adieu To Plastic Pouches

d. Tiles Made Using Plastic Waste: Apart from building roads using plastic waste, many states are also making pavements tiles using discarded plastic-like polybags, chips packets, plastic bottles, bottle caps and so on. In cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, tiles made out of plastic have already been put to use.

The paver tiles from plastic come with twin benefits. It solves the problem of road digging. Usually, when a water connection pipe is to be repaired or a telephone wire has to be laid, the civic corporation digs a portion of the road and the road has to be made again. Both time and huge amounts of money is spent in the exercise. In case of paver tiles, all one has to do it to lift a patch of the tile, complete the task and put it back. Moreover, while an average road construction costs up to Rs. 10 lakhs, the paver tiles purchased by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation costed them around Rs. 3 lakhs. Besides, the tiles can take approximately 20 tonnes of weight so the possibility of cracks is eliminated.

e. India’s Cleanest City Indore Introduces A Separate Bag For Plastic Waste: This year, cleanest city of India for three years in a row, Indore went a step ahead and introduced plastic waste segregation at source. The Indore Municipal Corporation announced a separate collection bag for all kinds of plastic waste like carry bags, milk pouches, water bottles, discarded buckets, mugs, tetra-packs, pens and plastic packaging items. Currently, the plastic items are being collected from the resident’s bi-weekly but gradually it will happen weekly. The corporation at present is able to treat 100 per cent of the plastic waste collected. It is converted into plastic pellets, a raw material for plastic products. Some amount of plastic waste is being converted into diesel as well. Currently, the treatment plant processes 8 tonnes of plastic every day and generates 3,500 litres of diesel on a daily basis.

Also Read: #BeatPlasticPollution: Indore Introduces ‘Thaila Bank’ To Phase Out The Use Of Single-use Plastic Bags

Experts Speak

Swati Singh Sambyal, Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Municipal Solid Waste), Centre for Science and Environment, highlights the challenge in meeting India’s deadline of being a plastic-free country, she said,

India needs to learn from its model cities such as Ambikapur, Indore, to name a few. Secondly, the government needs to identify the most problematic Single-Use plastic items and then come up with a solution to manage those via ban and layout guidelines clearly.

She also added that the government should focus on waste management as a whole wherein collection, segregation and recycling is involved. She said,

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.

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