NEW DELHI: In a major step towards tackling the plastic menace, the Delhi high court on 7 August extended the ban on plastic bags to all markets in the city. Since hotels, hostels and shopping malls have already been declared no-plastic zones, the new order, if strictly enforced, will significantly reduce the use of this ecologically hazardous material.
The court also asked the Delhi government to increase the minimum permissible thickness of plastic bags from 20 microns to 40 microns and ordered the closure of all illegal recycling units in the city with immediate effect.
A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur, responding to a PIL by Vinod Jain of Tapas, asked the city government to consider the recommendations of the Justice Chopra committee. The panel, comprising Delhi Pollution Control Board chairman J K Dadoo, Central Pollution Control Board chairman J M Mauskar and retired judge R C Chopra, had sought the use of virgin plastic in place of recycled plastic, a ban on small plastic pouches and getting plastic manufacturers to set up a state-of-the-art recycling unit.
While the government representatives chose not to talk about the order, saying they hadn't received a copy of the judgment, petitioner Jain said this was the first step in completely phasing out plastic bags from the city.
"The court has banned the bag at all places where it is used the most. The only setback at this point appears to be the lack of a deadline for implementing the ban. The government may take forever with this order," he said.
Experts, however, point to another huge problem that may occur after the order on closure of illegal recycling units is enforced. Delhi recycles about 1.2 million tonnes of plastic a year of which about 90% is done illegally, say industry insiders. In the process, the industry uses up about 50% of the city's plastic waste. At present, Delhi has no other mechanism for handling its waste and most of it finds its way to sewers and the Yamuna. As one expert asked, "Once the illegal units are shut, what is to happen to all this waste?"
"Delhi Pollution Control Committee does not have sufficient staff for such an operation," a government official said. "Till some time back, DPCC did not even have a clear idea of the extent of illegal plastic recycling taking place in the city. The collection mechanism was based largely on ragpickers. While the order is good for the city, the government needs to plan out its course of action before implementing the order in a hurry."
Complete ban on plastic bags not possible in Delhi: Govt panel
Reasonable rates may be fixed for the plastic waste to encourage the rag pickers and others to collect and sell plastic bags waste
New Delhi: A complete ban on plastic bags in the national capital is impossible, a government panel has noted and suggested setting up of recycling units by the manufacturers on the basis of “polluter pays principle” to tackle the menace.
‘Environmentally-sound and economically-viable modern recycling units must be established by licensed plastic bags manufacturers or Plastic Manufacturers Associations on the basis of polluter pays principle,” the panel said in its report submitted before the Delhi High Court.
The panel comprising officials of Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Justice R C Chopra was set up by the court while hearing a petition filed by activist V K Jain from NGO Tapas.
Jain has sought a complete ban on plastic bags in the city, maintaining that they are chocking drains and the Yamuna river and leading to water-borne diseases.
He said developed and developing countries like Germany, Singapore and Bangladesh have successfully banned the product.
The panel while maintaining that polythene bags are not easy to be banned, an observation which has brought a ray of smile on the face of plastic industry, also suggested setting up of a compaction unit for plastic recycling to be managed by the civic agencies at zonal level.
“Civic bodies namely Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Cantonment Board which handle and manage the solid waste in the city may be directed to encourage and support proper agencies for removal of plastic waste,“ the panel said in its report.
“If possible in every zonal office or dhalao, they should set up a plastic compaction unit where rag pickers or agencies may bring the plastic bags waste and get it compacted for sale to the recyclers,” it said.
Bringing to the notice of the Court about such machines being manufactured in Delhi, the panel said it has been found working satisfactorily at Sreekot, Shrinagar, Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand.
Along with compaction units, buy-back facilities can also be provided either by private entrepreneurs or by the state so that after compaction of plastic waste, it may be sold there itself, it added.
“Reasonable rates may be fixed for the plastic waste to encourage the rag pickers and others to collect and sell plastic bags waste,” the panel said.
The experts also sought steps to encourage discarded plastic bags or packaging products in segments like manufacturing of plastic furniture, non-critical household products like dustbins, mats, cloths hangers etc as well for construction of roads.
May 21 2008
India faced Plastic Waste Dumpeing in 2002
Earlier in February 2002, Denmark Environment Minister Hans C. Schmidt was profusely apologetic about the fact that his country had been sending plastic waste to India for re-cycling illegally. "This would be the last time something like this has happened," he said.
He was in Delhi for the Sustainable Development Seminar organised by TERI. Plastic is seen as one of the most unsustainable products as it is non-biodegradable.
A coalition of voluntary associations called NoPE (No Plastics in the Environment) had brought this fact to light and had met the Danish Deputy Head of Mission in New Delhi to apprise him of the situation as Denmark is also known for its commitment to environmental causes.
The last consignment from Denmark was of 400 tonnes. "This is the first case that has been brought to our notice but we believe that this illegal practice has been on," said Schmidt speaking to this website's newspaper.
Though the consignment from Denmark is not the cancer-causing PVC but acrylic polymers, it is seen as "plasticisation" of India when the country has more plastic it can deal with.
"As soon as it was brought to light, I contacted the firm through the municipality of the area and it seems that they did not know the rules," said Schmidt.
Since Denmark is a signatory to the Basel convention, it cannot send hazardous waste to to other countries without their permission.
The other guilty countries are Canada, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Japan, France and the US. More than 61,000 tonnes of plastic waste has already found way to the country in 1999-2000 as compared to 59,000 tonnes the year before.
On the one hand when Indian cities are grappling with mounds of plastic waste, data from the office of the Foreign Trade has shown that India has been a favoured ground for dumping plastic waste.
Since India has no law banning the import of plastic and the recycling industry is largely in the informal sector, countries with stricter environmental laws find it convenient to send it here.
Recycling in India is mainly an informal industry and contrary to belief is not environment-friendly.
In other countries, recycling is a state-of the-art facility making it an environmentally-friendly exercise. Plastics are supposed to be inherently unsustainable, coming as they do from non-sustainable petroleum sources.
From the cradle to the grave, they are implicated in a variety of problems such as environmental pollution, health hazards during manufacturing and recycling, toxic exposure to consumers during use and cattle deaths due to ingestion of plastic waste.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests has already made efforts to ban plastic bags by issuing a notification on the thickness of the bag.
A committee has also been set up under Justice Ranganath Mishra to suggest ways to deal with plastic waste. The committee is to give its report at the end of this month.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests has already made efforts to ban plastic bags by issuing a notification on the thickness of the bag. A committee has also been set up under Justice Ranganath Mishra to suggest ways to deal with plastic waste. The committee is to give its report at the end of this month.
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