EverEver heard the term solid waste management? It defines collecting, treating, and disposing of solid waste. This is what happens to plastic after they are discarded. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Plastic becoming integral to our lives brought us many challenges and advantages. One of the significant obstacles for India in terms of plastic is its solid waste management. But why do we need solid waste management for Plastic? It's because unfair solid waste management presents environmental and public health concerns.
The 12th Annex of the 74th Constitution Amendment Act of 1992 requires urban municipal authorities (ULBs) to maintain cities and villages clean. But it’s not adequately achieved in India so far.
Approximately 9.4 million TPA plastic waste is generated in the country every year, which amounts to 26,000 TPD. Of this, about 60% is recycled, most of it by the informal sector. While the recycling rate in India is considerably higher than the global average of 20%, there are still over 9,400 tonnes of plastic waste, either landfilled or polluting streams or groundwater resources. While some kinds of plastic do not decompose at all, others could take up to 450 years to break down.
Why is this happening?
Let us look into some reasons for this-
Inadequate Waste Management Infrastructure-
In a developing country like India, the production of plastic happens on a large scale and is never constant. But when it comes to the waste management infrastructure, it is almost limited. India's waste management infrastructure must catch up to the growing plastic waste generation. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, only 60-70% of the total municipal solid waste generated in the country is collected, and less than 20% is appropriately processed or treated. This highlights the urgent need for improved plastic waste collection, segregation, transportation, and disposal infrastructure.
Limited Waste Segregation at Source-
Segregation of plastic into different kings is a necessary step in solid waste management. But the problem arises when it is not done correctly. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change study revealed that in major cities across India, a mere 20-30% of waste is segregated at the household level. This low rate of waste segregation is primarily due to a lack of awareness among residents and inadequate infrastructure to support proper waste management practices. As a result, mixed waste streams are prevalent, making it challenging to separate recyclable materials from non-recyclable ones. This, in turn, hampers recycling efforts and complicates the process of ensuring proper disposal of plastic waste.
Ineffective Policy Implementation-
While India has enacted policies and regulations to address plastic waste management, the implementation and enforcement mechanisms often need to be revised. According to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment, lack of enforcement and monitoring has resulted in poor compliance with plastic waste management rules, undermining the effectiveness of these policies.
INITIATIVES TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT TO MITIGATE THE OBSTACLES
ASTIC WASTE MANAGEMENT RULES - 2016
These are a set of rules implemented by the government of India. These rules shall apply to every Waste Generator, Local Body, Gram Panchayat, Manufacturer, Importer, Producer, and Brand Owner. The initiative's main aim is to increase the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate a minimum thickness of 50 microns for plastic sheets to facilitate the collection and recycling of plastic waste. Also, rules have been laid out for event organizers, banning them from littering plastic. Similar rules have also been laid out for gram panchayats and local bodies.
Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission):
It is a nationwide initiative launched in 2014 to achieve universal sanitation coverage and improve solid waste management practices in India. This mission encompasses various vital areas, including the construction of toilets, behavioral change, solid waste management, and cleanliness campaigns. It aims to eliminate open defecation, promote hygienic behaviors, ensure proper waste segregation and disposal, and create a cleaner and healthier environment. Also, the mission includes initiatives such as Swachh Survekshan, an annual cleanliness survey encouraging cities to adopt innovative waste management practices and sanitation infrastructure practices. The Swachh Bharat Mission strives to transform India into a clean and hygienic nation through these efforts.