Plastic problem

A ban on recycled plastic in Delhi will have little effect

Published: Sunday 31 December 2000

Will the ban lend a helping ha the long-delayed, diluted bill to ban the use of recycled plastic bags was passed in the Delhi assembly recently. The Delhi plastic bags (manufacture, sale and usage) and non-biodegradable garbage (control) Bill, as it is called, bans recycled bags for carrying, storing or packing, both cooked and uncooked food, with all recycled bags carrying a label 'not fit for carrying packing or storing foodstuff'. Only virgin plastics of 20-micron thickness can be used for foodstuffs.

But will the use and manufacture of plastics thicker than 20 microns really help? Many experts feel that an increase in thickness would also mean an increase of plastics in the environment (See 'Plastic unlimited', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 14). However, Dilip Biswas, chairperson, Central Pollution Control Board ( cpcb ) and also of the National Plastics Waste Management Task Force, which prepared the draft, defends the bill. He claims that the thickness would reduce the use of plastics and the tendency to throw the plastics anywhere and everywhere.

But experts are critical of the bill. Says Sunita Dubey of Toxics Link, a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation: "This bill will wipe out the small-scale industries and boost the big petrochemical industries." Adds Bharati Chaturvedi, director, Chintan, an environmental research organisation: "The increase in thickness -- from 30 microns to 20 microns -- is only an advantage for industries, not for others." There are also questions about the implementation of the suggested thickness. "Who will monitor the thickness when there is no screw gauge?," asks Dubey.

Meanwhile, the plastic industry has washed its hands off by making the consumers responsible for an increase in size. "Plastics are used with consumer comfort in view and it is also the responsibility of the consumer to ensure that plastic products being used by them are recycled," says one plastic manufacturer. Most experts feel that the only solution to the plastic menace is a complete ban. "At present there is no way but to slowly phase-out the plastic products like polythene bags which have a short shelf life," says Chaturvedi.

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