Legislative headwinds & Growing concern
There is growing concern (and activism) on the use of plastics in the world. There is intense research being undertaken on a quantum of plastics generated and dumped into landfills and into the sea. Activism from civil societies like Ocean Conservancy & Ellen McArthur Foundation have made regulator take notice of the magnitude of the problem.
The European Union has come out with legislation to phase out ‘single use plastics’ over the next 12 years. ‘Design Out’ methods for easy recycling of plastic packaging is planned to be implemented all across Europe. This is towards certifying packaging for its ability to easy recycling and creating circular economies. This sits on top of stringent requirements of ‘take back’ of 40% of produced plastic in Germany and elsewhere in EU.
Read Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Report on “The New Plastics Economy”
Back home in India, under the Plastic Waste Rules- 2016, each brand owner/producer/importer needs to submit plans to bring back post consumption plastic packaging waste. In India, the Municipalities whose primary aim is to keep the cities/towns clean do not effectively undertake such formal collection and segregation of waste. Informal methods of collection by 2-3MM waste pickers who trade the valuable part of the waste (metals /wood/paper/some plastics) contributes to a large portion of the plastics finding second life after reprocessing. This also means that ‘difficult to recycle’ plastics (composites / multi-layered etc.), finds no value for the waste picker and thus left behind with rest of garbage. Unless handled specifically, some plastic types that do not degenerate/decompose and finds its way into open areas, sewers and even in animal food chains. While there is a specific mention of such non-recyclable plastic composites to be phased out in 2 years, India has ‘sachet culture’ of single use consumption of snacks to shampoos. It is uneconomical to overcome such affordable consumption by the masses.
India is the host country for the upcoming World Environment Day and the theme this year is ‘Beat Plastics Pollution’. This is bringing the focus to plastics and to India. All stakeholders have to live up to the ‘Swatch Bharat’ mission of litter free India and towards cleaner image for Plastics in India.