40% plastic waste littered on India’s streets: Javadekar in Lok Sabha

Minister also told the House that the government had no new scheme or fund allocation for recycling of plastic

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Friday 22 November 2019
40 per cent of plastic waste generated in India remains littered on the streets. Photo: Chinky Shukla/CSE
Cows eating trash at Okhla landfill, Delhi. Photo: Chinky Shukla/CSE Cows eating trash at Okhla landfill, Delhi. Photo: Chinky Shukla/CSE

As much as 40 per cent of plastic waste collected in India remains uncollected and littered on the streets, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar told the Lok Sabha on November 22, 2019.

A whopping 25,940 tonnes per day of plastic waste is generated in India, Javadekar said, quoting a study of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The country’s 60 major cities produce 4,059 tonnes per day of plastic waste, he added. 

Except for 2018-19, the production of plastic increased in India in the last five years. 

“The production of plastic in India increased from 1,591 million metric tonnes in 2014-15 to 1,719 million metric tonnes in 2017-18. However, the production for 2018-19 is 1,589 million metric tonnes,” Union Minister of State for the environment ministry, Babul Supriyo said, quoting a government report released this year.

Quoting another CPCB report, Javadekar said the dumpsites where the waste that does not reach recycling units, were adversely affecting the environment in multiple ways.

“The CPCB, in its report Impact of Plastic Waste Disposal on Soil and Water Quality at Lucknow Dumpsites in December 2015, has found that dumping of plastic waste can deteriorate soil and underground water quality due to leaching of additives, colourants, stabilisers and filters present in different categories of plastic products,” he said.

Javadekar also told the House that the government had no new scheme or fund allocation for recycling of plastic.

“However, to utilise the uncollected plastic waste, local bodies are to encourage the use of plastic waste for road construction, co-processing of plastic waste in cement kilns, conversion of plastic waste into liquid RDF (oil) and the disposal of plastic waste through Plasma Pyrolysis Technology,” he said.

As many as 22 states and union territories have orders imposing a complete ban on plastic carry bags and single-use plastics. Another seven have imposed partial restrictions or prohibition of plastic carry bags or other single-use plastic products.

The rest have not imposed any additional restrictions on plastic bags if the thickness is more than 50 microns.

Javadekar clarified the Centre had not issued any guideline or instruction on the blanket ban of polythene bags. 

He reiterated that Solid Waste Management Rules (SWMR) 2016 prohibited the use of sachets made of plastic material for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala and even ready-to-eat food stuffs. However, their rampant use continues.

Javadekar said that as many as 21 states had imposed fines, issued notices and closure directions to companies found violating rules regarding plastic in their respective jurisdictions, although he could not put a number on the reported violations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced on October 2, 2019 that single-use plastics would be phased out by 2022, reiterating what the environment minister had already said last year. This put to rest, the speculations that the category would see an all-out ban.

Alternatives to plastic

The minister also stated that there was no green alternative to plastic available at the moment. However, he added, “An expert group has been constituted by the Central Institute of Plastics Engineering & Technology to research and develop compostable / biodegradable plastic.”

Javadekar did enumerate alternatives for plastic used in various daily use items.

“An easy replacement is available for ear buds sticks, balloon sticks, flags, candies etc made of plastic. For the portion of plastic in these items, wood / bamboo / paper is the easily available option,” he said.

“The PVC materials which are commonly used for flex, banners and posters are a hazard to health and the environment. Alternatively, cloth banners, lightweight textile fabric, wrinkle- resistant warp knit, natural fibre-based sandwich board, resin-infused paper and partial boards can be used,” he added.

He said paper and leaf plates, paper / earthen cups and glass, wooden spoons, paper straws, multi-layered (aluminum and paper) pouches in place of container and container lids, wooden trays and stirrers made of wood could be used in place of plastic utensils.

Apart from these traditional materials, new ones like those made of bagasse and banana stem were widely available in the market, the minister said.

The waste generated in the cement industry also remains a concern. The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs conceded in the Lok Sabha that of the 238 registered cement-producing facilities, only 46 had the facility to use Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) of plastic and other waste as fuel in their plants.

The SWMR 2016 mandate that at least five per cent of the plastic waste generated by cement factories should be used as fuel. The ministry said there was no plan to increase the limit.

Many tourism destinations in India, from beaches to hills, are in the news for plastic waste being littered there.

Union Minister of State for Tourism (Independent Charge) Prahlad Singh Patel said in the lower House the government was launching awareness campaigns to address the issue.

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