TODAY -

Plastic is a blessing in disguise

Depiya Thoudam *



Election campaigns are going on through the length and breadth of Manipur right now for the upcoming general election. Candidates are making huge promises to the people that they will do this and that if elected.

My sister sarcastically says, “these patriotic candidates promising us bright futures are temporary. Once the election gets over they will metamorphose like caterpillars to butterflies, the only thing permanent is plastic.”

The last part of her sarcasm indeed hit me really hard. My toothbrush, the first thing that I touch in the morning to start my day to the electric switch to turn off the light before I go to bed to end my day, they are all made of plastic.

In short, my day starts and ends with plastic. I think it is basically the same for almost all of us. It has become an integral part of our lives. No doubt, it has made our lives a lot easier but we cannot a turn blind eye to its negative impacts.

A single plastic bag takes thousands of years to completely decay. So, they stay in the environment for a pretty long time contributing to soil pollution; choking sewage and drains; disrupting aquatic and terrestrial food chains and so on. Being non-biodegradable, the only way to get rid of them is to burn them, which we mostly do. But the toxic fumes released while doing so only adds to air pollution crisis.

Moreover, there are enough research data available that chemicals like BPA and phthalates in plastics can interfere with our natural hormone levels and can cause serious damage to our bodies and the list is long.

Indeed, plastic is a blessing in disguise. The question of the hour should be how we are tackling the problems arising out of usage of plastic. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimated that India generates around 25,900 tons of plastic waste per day which is approximated to 9.46 million tons of plastic waste per annum.

Of this, huge chunks nearly 40% of plastic waste is uncollected and littered in the environment causing numerous problems and they are ticking time bombs. The Government of India, taking cognizance of the hazards of plastic, brought out the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 in the month of August this year to replace the existing Plastic Waste Management Rule, 2016.

Under this rule, India is attempting to take a strong stand against plastics by banning the use and sale of SUP (Single Use Plastic). SUP has been defined as disposable plastic that are intended to be used only once before they are being disposed of or recycled.

MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Climate), taking into considerations the recommendations of the 13 member expert committee headed by Indrajit Pal, has already announced the list of identified items having low utility and high littering potential which have to be phased out by 2022.

From 1 July, 2022, the prohibition of the manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of items such as ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic flags, ice cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, spoons, forks, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners of less than 100 microns etc. will come into force.

Right now the permitted plastic bags have thickness of 75 microns. The thickness has to be 120 microns from next year starting 31 December. This step has been taken believing that this will allow people to reuse plastic bags as their durability increase with thickness.

The MoEFCC has also come out with a draft notification for regulation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. EPR is a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of disposal of products designated as no longer useful by consumers.

The draft specifies the quantity of waste that will have to be managed by producers, importers and brand owners who generate plastic packaging waste in India. UNEP (United Nation Environment Programme) conferred the “Champions of the Earth Award” in 2018 to our PM for his pledge to eliminate all SUP by 2022 from India.

During the 4th United Nation Environment Assembly, 2019, India moved a resolution on addressing SUP pollution by 2022, asserting that SUP is one major factor of environment degradation. Yes we have seen many positive actions and commitments but we all need to do more. We should not stop till we find the real solutions to these plastic problems. Meanwhile paper bags and cloth bags are possible alternatives to plastic bags.

Recycling and reusing should be practiced wherever possible in regard to plastic usage. Usage of plastic in packaging sector is where it is grossly being abused. I hope and pray that the thoughtful adoption of a variety of policies and legislative measures by our Government brings the required curative measures in this context.

Let's all work together to leave a clean and friendly environment for our children.


* Depiya Thoudam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at depiyathoudam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 07 2021.



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