India: Something Like Plastic

Last Updated: 18 September 2018
Article by R. K Dewan & Co

Compiled by: Sachi Kapoor | Concept & Edited by: Dr. Mohan Dewan

Did you know plastic has been banned in 25 states of India to which Maharashtra and J&K are the latest additions to the list? Let us first simplify the multiple notifications released by the Maharashtra Government. The first notification that was released by the Maharashtra state government on March 23, 2018 did not consist of the definitions of 'Multi Layered Packaging' and 'Paper based Carton Packaging using one layer of plastic' (milk, juice, etc.), both of which were introduced vide the notification released on June 30, 2018. The banned products excluded plastic use for packaging of medicines, compostable plastic bags, and manufacture of plastic bags for export purposes in SEZ and export units. Further guidelines were released for plastic use which were integral parts of the manufacturing process such as:

  • Thickness to be more than 50 microns
  • Material to be made up of minimum 20% recyclable plastic. (except food packaging)
  • Packaging material to be printed with the details of the manufacturer, buy back price and type of plastic code number.

The government initially had given out a time period of only ONE month to get rid of any plastic not within the norms, this time period was extended to 3 months i.e. the last day being June 23, 2018.

Reality check!!!

The plastic ban has not only led to immense confusion among consumers but also worried multiple manufacturers and retailers. The environmental friendly initiative would yield results only if the requisite substitutes had been available at reasonable prices. The people of the State are not only confused about the exact products banned but are also in a dilemma as to what is to be used as a substitute. The few suggestions proposed such as compostable plastic bags for garbage is not a viable option as it directly affects the basic house budget of many families. The ineffectiveness of the plastic ban is apparent with the results observed across the other states of the country.

Before we move forward, do we really know what exactly PLASTIC is? It is material, which contains as an essential ingredient a high polymer such as polyethylene terephthalate, high density polyethylene, vinyl, low density polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene resins, polystyrene (thermocol), non-oven polypropylene, multi layered co extruder, polypropylene, poly terephthalate, poly amides, poly methyl methacrylate, plastic micro beads, etc.

Whereas, 'Compostable Plastic' is plastic that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield CO2, water, inorganic compounds and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials, excluding environmental petro-based plastic, and does not leave visible, distinguishable or toxic residue, and which shall confirm to the Indian Standard: IS 17088:2008 titled as Specifications for Compostable Plastics, as amended from time to time.

What people are appearing to forget is that the term Plastic is broad enough to include polyester and fabrics made from fibres of polyester thus has also excluded non-woven sheets of plastic. By this definition the only packaging material left for the consumer/retailer is paper or cloth made from material such as cotton/linen/jute. , since most synthetic fabrics are plastic materials.

Is this a step in the right direction?

YES! It is surprising to note that many countries worldwide are battling the problem of doing away with plastic. It is imperative to understand the harmful effects of plastic use. It may sound monotonous and repetitive but it is for our own benefit.

Ever wondered what happens to the waste plastic? The waste plastic goes into land filling which affects the soil and has adverse environmental effects.

Did you know it takes about 500-1000 years for a plastic to decompose by itself?

If observed as to how other countries around the world have been implementing plastic bans it is interesting to take note that most countries began their ban by imposition of fines, increasing tax, pricing the plastic bags high so as to discourage people from buying plastic. Countries such as Kenya, England, Mexico, Rwanda, Ireland, France, EU are among the few who have successfully reduced the use of plastic by more than 60% with the use of these techniques. Sweden, known as the worlds' largest and the best recycler, has adopted the mantra of 'No plastic ban, more plastic recycling', and successfully recycles its own plastic and in addition is now open to helping other countries to recycle. The amount of plastic that goes into landfilling from Sweden is a meagre 1%.

Thus, we can easily conclude that our government is going in the right direction and in fact is being responsible as it is on par with Countries like Canada and in fact ahead of countries like USA to help save the environment.

Other options/suggestions for the government for Plastic Disposal could be:

- Making of blocks or sheets from such accumulated plastic garbage

- Using plastic for road fills and road surface treatment, for example: plastic bottles could be filled with garbage and soil and could by itself act as a wall building material.

As a concluding note, let us all imbibe the mantra released by the United Nations Environment Program, 'If you can't reuse it, refuse it'.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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