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Plastics themselves aren't a problem; it's their supervision that has proven difficult. Land-based activities harm the environment, mainly marine life. Every day, India's urban areas generate around 26,000 tonnes of plastic. The Central Pollution Control Board also finds that plastic waste, on average, accounts for 6.92 percent of municipal solid waste. Plastic is a versatile material with a wide range of products, including packaging, medical and engineering equipment, and even aeronautics. According to many life-cycle assessment studies, plastics have a smaller carbon footprint than alternatives such as paper, jute, and even cloth. It's important to emphasize that sustainable choice is about the proper disposal of discarded plastics to stop the harmful effects of plastics on the environment.
According to the 2016 Plastic Waste Management Rules, urban local bodies (ULBs) must ban the use of less than 50micron thick plastic bags. They should not use recycled plastics for packaging meals, drinking, or other food items. According to the Rules, local governments must also provide for separate collection, storage, and plastic waste processing in their jurisdictions. None of the ULBs, on the other hand, has been able to implement the Rules fully.
Avoiding the use of single-use plastics
It's time to reconsider how we make, use, and dispose of plastic items in the most environmentally friendly way possible. Plastic banned in some countries, such as Rwanda and Tanzania's Zanzibar, has successfully addressed significant issues. However, only better waste management systems, such as improved source segregation, efficient municipal solid waste (MSW) plans, ensuring the collection and transportation of segregated waste, and encouraging the country to identify and use affordable plastic alternative goods, will address the issue long-term effects and widespread problem. Apart from national bans on SUPs, regional leaders such as January Makamba (Tanzania's Union and Environment Minister), Paul Kagame (Rwandan President at the time), Li Ganjie (Chinese Minister for Environmental Protection), and others have raised their voices and signed agreements to stop the movement and manufacture of single-use plastics across borders.
The informal sector plays an important role
In the management of plastics, the informal sector plays a significant role. In India, plastics' recycling rate is expected to be around 60%, even though 94% of the plastics we use are thermoset and recycled. ULBs must incorporate these workers from the informal sector, build their capacity through training and workshops, and expand material recovery facilities in cities.
Additionally, in India, waste collection and recycling are primarily regulated by informal sector and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, resulting in the non-collection of low-value plastics such as low-density polyethylene (LDPE) bags multi layer plastic packaging’s. As a result, to make the collection and recycling of such low-value items possible, sustainable financial models (such as Extended Producer Responsibility or deposit refund schemes) will be required. It will not only assist cities in waste management but will also improve their social and economic fabric. To give these workers a sense of safety and security, Urban Local Bodies should link them to government health insurance and life insurance schemes. Through waste management concessionaires, self-help groups, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ULBs can connect these informal workers into formal chains, ensuring that these last resort workers are uplifted and transferred to exemplary work. Segregation of waste at the source is a crucial factor in increasing material recovery and recycling rates. Once the waste is sort into dry, wet, and hazardous categories at the start, material-recovery facilities have plenty of opportunities to recover plastics from dry waste. As a result, citizen participation and engagement in the management of plastics are essential.
Plastic is everywhere; it is the noticeable backbone of globalization. As we all know, eliminating it is challenging, despite the reality that half of the world struggles to address this threat with rational and pragmatic solutions. Due to insufficient legal provisions, waste infrastructures, resource restrictions, and a lack of public awareness, developing countries' passive attitude stymies progress. It is critical for the government, state governments, and civilians to reach a common goal for national waste management. In 2016, the Indonesian government implemented a three-month trial program in 23 of its cities, charging 200 rupiahs for plastic bags.
The resulted in a remarkable 55 percent reduction in the use of SUPs. Unfortunately, retailers refused to continue after the trial period because it slowed down their business, and there was no legal basis to continue charging customers. Finally, the failure of excise on plastic bags in 2018 resulted from this.
Furthermore, in Kenya, prohibiting the use of plastics has the potential to disrupt the economy. In Kenya, during carrying bags were phased out, 3% of the workforce lost their jobs. Developing countries are unable to completely discharge their responsibilities due to financial constraints and a lack of capacity, in addition to the challenges listed above. The solution is to impose a tax on plastics, covering the waste management's operating costs.
When China passed its National Sword Policy in 2018, it left the United States, Australia, and several other limbo countries. China, a major importer of plastic waste for recycling, has suddenly banned the importation of plastic scraps (polyethylene, polystyrene, polyethylene terephthalate, and polyvinyl chloride) for recycling, bringing the global plastic waste crisis into sharp focus.
Following the ban, illegal dumping of plastic waste in neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand occurred. Exporters of plastic waste saw an unprecedented accumulation of untreated plastics in their cities.
Changes in global strategy and recognition of risk
Since the 1970s, international conferences have discussed waste and litter in order to prevent ocean dumping and preserve the marine environment. Two such conventions are the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) of 1973 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982. (UNCLOS). The plastic waste crisis has recently ignited global partnerships explicitly aimed at reducing plastic waste, such as the 2012 Global Partnership on Marine Litter. The US entered through its Trash-Free Waters Program, which the federal Clean Water Act governs.
Other initiatives followed, including:
- The US Department of Energy founded the REMADE (Reducing EMbodied-energy And Decreasing Emissions) Institute in 2017.
- The European Union (EU) published its European Plastics Strategy for a Circular Economy in 2018.
- In 2018, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) adopted plastics economy targets for plastic packaging.
- The World Economic Forum called for the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPGP), enabling governments and stakeholders to collaborate to redesign the global take-make-dispose economy into a circular economy.
- The Ellen McArthur Foundation launched the New Plastics Economic movement, which unites over 1,000 organizations and lays out a vision for plastics' circular economy.
- The Alliance to End Plastic Waste pledged $1.5 billion over five years in 2019 to combat environmental plastic waste.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.