The Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 mandate the producers and brand owners to devise a plan in consultation with the local bodies to introduce a collect back system. This system, known as the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR), would help assist the municipalities in tackling the plastic waste issue. As a part of the EPR, it also provides for collection of a fee from the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/ multi-layered packaging in order to strengthen the financial status of local authorities and, therefore, the plastic waste management systems.
1.Plastic consumption is continuously increasing owing to urbanization and the growing global demand. Although the rising rates of plastic production project positively for Indian businesses and the economy, unscientific waste management practices are leading to adverse environment effects. This calls for efficient planning, incorporating “design for environment concept”, better end use application and plastic waste management with sustainable solutions and alternatives.
2 Municipalities must formulate a plastic waste management plan in accordance with the rules to ensure scientific management of plastic waste. Further, producers and brand owners must partner with municipalities to ensure the devising of an EPR plan and the associated implementation. Furthermore, India may take its cue from the best practices from around the world on the explicit pricing of carry bags and its role in shaping behavioural change.
3.To incentivize recycling, innovative economic models may be devised and implemented to encourage citizens to recycle and ensure maximum diversion of plastic waste.
4. Bio-based and biodegradable plastics offer sustainable alternatives to curb plastic use and waste minimization. The use of biodegradable plastic must be promoted, especially in large-scale applications, such as manufacturing of agricultural mulch films, superabsorbent composites used for waste water treatment, and sustained release of pesticides. There is a further need for the upscaling and commercialization of these products through a facilitation of research and industry tie-ups.
5.While recycling is the most suited model for tackling plastic waste as per the waste hierarchy, the implementation of the same is faced with challenges, such as a lack of source segregation and recovery. Therefore, municipalities must look to improve upon the infrastructure for material recovery centres manned by the informal sector workers and an increased awareness on waste segregation.
6.Development of high-performance and value-added recycled products either commodity wise or with commingled plastics require the development of innovative solutions which focus on increased mechanical properties (at par with virgin plastic) that are tailor-made to meet the special needs, such as recycled fire-retardant plastics, hydrophobic coatings, and so on. These products can cater to the building sector, furniture industry, packaging, and automobile industry.
7. Amongst the other sustainable alternatives of plastic waste management, co-processing of plastic in cement kilns offers a sound, environmentally viable mechanism to process non-recyclable, combustible plastic waste and simultaneously address the perennial challenge of waste management. This may help facilitate completing the circular economy loop for such plastic waste. Further, the integration of mixed plastic waste with bitumen is becoming an attractive and accessible option for municipalities owing to the unsegregated nature of waste, improved quality of roads, and pothole filling.
The Way Ahead
A detailed mapping of waste quantities, generation sources, and the associated characteristics is vital for the implementation of an effective plastic waste management mechanism in cities.
Source: TERI – Challenges and opportunities Plastic Waste Management in India