Reuse, recycle for a cleaner, healthier India, and let’s cut use of
age, June 05,
By PRADEEP S MEHTA AND GEORGE CHERIYAN
Studies show that plastic is produced more than any other human-made
material, except cement and steel.
Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, is a call for
action and invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday
lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our cities, water
bodies, forests and our own health.
Studies show that plastic is produced more than any other human-made material,
except cement and steel. The total plastic production in 2015 was 380 million
tonnes. Out of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced so far, only around
nine per cent was recycled, 12 per cent was incinerated, while the remaining 79
per cent was discarded in landfills or dumped in open spaces across the country.
Every year the world uses 500 billion plastic bags. Plastic bottles are the
biggest contributor in waste piling up as one million bottles are bought every
minute throughout the world. 50 percent of the plastic, we use is single-use or
disposable. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (2015), an average
of 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day by the Tier-I and
Tier-II cities in India.
Consider the cost of disposal. Getting rid of large quantities of waste is often
beyond the financial capacities of urban local bodies. There is also poor
institutional capacity and low political will to address the problem. Many
cities lack the facilities for safe disposal of municipal solid waste. The most
common disposal practice across the country is uncontrolled dumping. Achieving
the objectives of the Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan is therefore practicable only if
the country works towards reducing the generation of waste by inculcating simple
habits like reduce, reuse and recycle, in tandem with proper segregation and
Organic and biodegradable waste, which constitutes 50-60 per cent of the
country’s urban waste, can be converted into compost, thereby solving half of
India’s waste problems. The market for compost has enormous potential in India,
which is predominantly a agriculture-based country and many states moving
towards organic farming.
Consider the tale of two cities from Kerala. The Thiruvananthapuram Municipal
Corporation (TMC) is known for its innovation to improve its services… and one
of the latest examples is its new approach to dispose of its municipal solid
waste. The corporation launched a campaign called “Ente Nagaram, Sundara Nagaram”,
which means “My City. Beautiful City”, in 2014, after its failure over
centralised solid waste management.
As a result of the mass awareness campaign, Thiruvananthapuram city’s residents
were sensitised to treat the bio-degradable waste or kitchen waste at the source
itself. At present, there is no collection of bio-degradable waste within the
corporation limits. This is to encourage the public to take responsibility of
the garbage they generate.
The TMC supplied required number of waste disposal and treatment systems like
three-layered bucket-sized kitchen bins and pipe bins free of cost or at nominal
cost to its residents. The TMC also installed community biogas plants,
community-owned aerobic bins, for those households who do not have the space to
keep kitchen bins or fix pipe bins, in each and every ward of the city. So far
more than 1.5 lakh households are processing the bio-degradable waste at source
and around 50 biogas plants have been constructed. Strict penalty with fines
ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 are levied on those who dump their waste in
The TMC has an agreement with Clean Kerala Co Ltd for treating the plastic and
e-waste. There is a separate provision for collecting the plastic waste from
households and institutions for further treatment at the rate of Rs 60 per
month. Only dry and clean plastic covers, packets and other materials are
collected and received at the designated counters. These are further taken to
respective shredding units and handed over to Clean Kerala Co for further use.
The decentralised waste management is successfully implemented in the city of
Alappuzha in Kerala as well. The Alappuzha municipality took efforts to
decentralise the waste management rather than continuing with the usual
collect-and-dump type model in open landfills. The Alappuzha municipality earned
a few national awards and the UNEP recently recognised it as one of the five top
clean cities in the world.
The experiments by Thiruvananthapu-ram and Alappuzha with decentralised waste
management thus have inspired other municipalities to successfully replicate the
same models within the state. To give the required thrust, a state policy has
been developed to bring a thousand village panchayats to instal aerobic bins to
process organic waste.
The Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 and the Plastic Waste Management Rules
of 2016 are a welcome move. But a greater push and clarity is needed to ensure
its effective implementation. While the rules place liabilities on the producers
of plastic waste to contribute to its collection and disposal, this is
practically unworkable as most producers are small and informal. Likewise, the
mandatory door-to-door collection of segregated waste is hardly followed in most
cities. Only a coordinated effort of all stakeholders can help reduce the cost
of waste management rather than thrusting the responsibility solely on the
shoulders of the municipal authorities.
Public consultation and participation of citizens from the very beginning
coupled, with information campaigns across all sectors, is therefore vital for
the successful enforcement of the rules. While India is hosting this year’s
World Environment Day, it’s the right time for our cities to learn and replicate
some of these successful models and contribute positively towards addressing the
menace of plastic.
The writers work for CUTS International