DB Original/ 26000 tonnes of plastic waste generated daily in India, PM wants a war on plastic; experts’ focus on plastic waste management

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech on Independence Day, appealed to stop using single-use plastic
  • Three experts associated with the Plastic Manufacturers Association, the central government and the Center for Science and Environment, told the Bhaskar APP its nuances
  • According to environmental expert NP Shukla, burning plastic at 600-degree temperature can give us fuel
  • Every Indian uses an average of 11 kg of plastic annually, the annual consumption of plastic in the country is more than 17.7 million tons

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address from Red Fort on Independence Day called for making the country free from single-use plastic. He had said that this campaign should start from the day of Gandhi Jayanti on 2 October. Single-use plastic is one that can be used only once. But experts point out that when plastic is being used indiscriminately from foil to airplane, it seems impossible to ban the single-use plastic. The government should focus on plastic waste management so that we can make it an alternative fuel for coal.

On this issue, Bhaskar App spoke to Hiten Bheda, former chairman of All India Plastic Manufacturers Association, Dinesh Raj Bandela, deputy programme manager of the Center for Science and Environment and NP Shukla, an environmental expert associated with the central government.

About 26000 tonnes of plastic waste is being released daily in the country, only 60% can be recycled

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) survey revealed that 4,059 tonnes of plastic waste is generated daily only by 60 large cities of the country. It was estimated on this basis that 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste is produced daily all over the country. Out of this, only 60% i.e. 15,384 tonnes of plastic waste is collected or recycled. The rest goes into the sea or is eaten by animals.

Over 1.5 lakh tonnes of plastic waste comes from abroad

More than 1.5 lakh tonnes of plastic waste comes to India from abroad every year. In 2016-17, 1.55 lakh tonnes of plastic waste came from abroad. At the same time, 1.81 lakh tonnes of plastic waste was imported in 2017-18 and 2.18 lakh tonnes in 2018-19. By April this year, 19,305 tonnes of plastic garbage has come from abroad. Hiten, who is associated with the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association, says that there are many recycling units across the country. There are also 60 to 80 places where plastic recycling is being done unofficially. 2% to 5% of plastic waste is not recycled. Most people put the leftover food in plastic bags and throw them away. This makes it difficult to collect plastic bags. If this waste is collected, then the environment can be saved.

We can make fuel with plastic, it can be used instead of coal

  • NP Shukla, an environmental expert associated with the central government, says that we should follow the principle “Waste to Wealth”. We can make fuel from plastic. When polythene is burnt at temperatures above 600 degrees, fuel can be extracted from it. But burning at temperatures below 600 degrees releases dioxins and furan gases, which are very dangerous.
  • The flammability of polythene is 3 times that of coal. 1 kg of polythene can save 3 kg of coal. It can be used in cement factories because the temperature of the cement furnaces is 800°C. If we replace 1% coal with plastic, then the environment will benefit a lot. We can also use plastic to make roads. For this, non-recyclable plastics can be sent to the cement industry or energy plants for processing, where they can be put to proper use.

Plastic releases methane gas which is 30 times more dangerous than Co2

Dinesh Raj Bandela of CSE says that single-use plastic cannot be disposed of properly. Because of this, it lies on the ground or at dumpsites. There it mixes with the biodegradable waste and releases methane gas. Methane is 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Methane is largely responsible for climate change.

There is a law against use of plastic bags in India, why are they still used?

  • There is a ban on the production, import, storage, sale and transport of plastics of less than 50 micron thickness in the country. Even after this, they are used indiscriminately. In this regard, NP Shukla, former chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and currently an environmental expert in the central government, says that plastic carry-bags (polythene) are completely banned in many states, but polythene is so ingrained in our lifestyle that people do not stop using it even if they want to.
  • Hiten says that the largest section of India’s population is middle class. They do purchases on a day-to-day basis. This increases the demand for plastic bags, as it is also cheaper and it makes it easier to carry goods. Paper or cloth bags can be used instead of polyethylene, but they also harm the environment. Therefore, these options are also not suitable for the environment.

Every Indian uses 11 kg of plastic annually

A FICCI report in February 2017 said that every person in India uses 11 kg of plastic annually. In America, every person there uses ten times i.e. 109 kg of plastic annually. Due to the large population of India, about 5.5 lakh tonnes of plastic gets into the sea through river channels. According to the 2017 report of Nature Communication, annually 1.10 lakh tonnes of plastic waste flows from the Ganges to the Bay of Bengal. According to an estimate, 8 million tonnes of plastic goes into the sea annually. If it is not controlled, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.

Impossible to ban plastic bags or polythene

  • Hiten, who is associated with the Plastic Manufacturers Association, says that the country consumes more than 1.7 crore tonnes of plastic annually. 7-10% of this is used in packaging. Now no other method of packaging can be devised. However, where we do not need plastic, we can stop using it. For example, instead of eating with a plastic spoon, we can eat with a steel spoon. Or, where plastic is not required, look for another option. The damage to the environment is due to a lack of plastic management.
  • Environmental expert NP Shukla also says the same thing. According to him, everything is made of plastic, from foil to airplane. Therefore, it is impossible to ban plastic. We can ban polythene, but even then we should focus on its management. The ban does not remain in effect, so the use of plastic continues. We need to manage plastic waste because plastic disposable is a big problem. If we manage it properly, we can save the environment.

The govt should formulate a policy to properly manage plastic waste 

Hiten Bheda says that the Prime Minister has raised the right issue but there is a need for a policy that does not harm anyone. He says that the government should understand the needs of industry and society and make a policy accordingly. Lakhs of people work in the plastics industry and if it is banned, then these people will lose their jobs. Therefore, a policy should be made in which all aspects are taken into consideration.