Plastic, a wonder of Polymer chemistry, it came into Indian
market in the late forties but its use increased phenomenally
from the 70's with widespread utility in both industrial and
domestic sectors. The Plastic industry growth in India has
been in step with its growth worldwide.
Plastics have made visible and dramatic changes in the field
of consumer products, packaging, agriculture, construction,
furniture, medicare, and telecom and information technology.
Plastics are linked to the growth and prosperity of emerging
economies like India. Plastics as exceptionally versatile,
cost effective and convenient material have become an integral
part of our daily lives. It is in fact difficult to imagine
a world without plastics.
The development of any industry creates an impact on the
environment and the plastic industry is no exception.
Social attitudes and perceptions have acquired a heightened
awareness of the environmental issues today and the world
of tomorrow has become just as important as the world we live
in today. Often these perceptions tend to be based on superficial
understanding of the relevant facts. It is important that
facts are fully analysed, alternatives evaluated so that rational
choices can be made when deciding what is the best.
The plastic industry has lately come under scathing attacks.
Accusations leveled against plastics in general and against
plastic industry in particular have been far fetched and without
a sound rational basis.
Some of the myths perpetuated about plastics are:
· Feared as being toxic
· Could be health hazards
· Maybe harmful to the soil
· Could cause acid rain
What is the major concern about usage of plastics?
The average citizen perceives the household garbage specifically
plastic packaging material as a major contributor to the waste
problem. It sees poly bags casually thrown around in public
places such as streets, parks and beaches and plastic bottles
scattered around refuse bins rather than inside them, disposable
plastic trays and cups all along the railway tracks, highways
etc. Everybody gets concerned, media runs campaigns and suddenly
authorities consider taking such actions as banning the plastic
bags, assuming litter will go away.
Is it not our duty as serious and responsible people to analyse
all the facts without prejudice and find solutions which are
technically and economically feasible to protect our environment?
Does the Government have a responsible role in evaluating
available scientific data before passing sweeping regulations?
Does the public have some responsibility towards maintaining
civic sense and not indulging in littering?
Have our Municipalities considered taking steps in implementing
the Notifications on Municipal Solid Waste Management issued
by the Central Pollution Control Board and Government of India?
Have most of our NGOs been fair in terming plastic as the
main environmental pollutant while ignoring the lax attitude
of citizens about littering particularly of thin plastic carry
bags and absence of litterbins?
And finally, has the Plastic Industry taken steps as responsible
members of the society to create a fair image of plastics
and laying scientific facts before the public?
ICPE shows the way:
In 1999, the Indian Centre for Plastics in the Environment
was set up based on the recommendations of the Task Force
on Plastics set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
It is an autonomous body and has eminent personalities from
Government, industry and educational and scientific institutions
on its Governing Council and the Executive Committee.
The main task before ICPE is to act as a bridge between the
plastic industry on the one hand and the policy makers and
the society at large on the other hand so that responsible,
technically defensible and rational actions are taken in the
overall public interest and environmental welfare. In fact,
it is a part of the industry initiative for Responsible Care.
ICPE addresses various social, environmental and technical
issues with specific emphasis on plastic waste and offers
technical and practical solutions.
Action by the Industry as recommended by the Task Force:
- Implementation of Guidelines on Plastic Packaging and
Plastics Waste, BIS Guidelines on Recycling Plastics
- Taking up a lead role in establishing effective waste
collection system through pilot projects as demonstration
- Participation in Implementation and Monitoring Committee
- Establishing network of concerned Industry Associations
for promoting waste management and organized recycling.
The situation calls for coordinated actions in several areas.
- To conduct Public Awareness campaigns about the ill effects
of littering - and that includes all types of waste unwanted
material like paper, glass, plastic, jute, metal and not
- To ensure separation of dry and wet municipal waste at
source. The citizens have to be educated and persuaded to
segregate household waste into wet and dry bins, segregated
waste must become the norm in all our housing colonies.
These efforts have to be backed by an efficient municipal
waste collection system linked to an economic recycling
programme for dry waste. A massive communication programme
complemented by strict enforcement of penalties for littering
will ensure success of our efforts to remove unattended
garbage in our environment.
ICPE has already initiated a Pilot Project in Mumbai to implement
Segregation of Household dry waste at source, with the cooperation
of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation ( BMC) and a host of
enlightened NGOs such as NGOs for Governance and Renewal (
NAGAR) beginning with the Cuffe Parade area of Ward A. ICPE
and other NGOs (SMS, FORCE) have replicated this project in
5 other wards of Mumbai. The truth is that the general popular
view that plastic is the main component in municipal solid
waste (MSW) is not confirmed by research. Even in western
countries where the usage of plastics is several multiples
of that in India and throw away rather than reuse is the norm,
plastic accounts for less than 8 % of the municipal Solid
waste. Other categories of waste material organic products
paper, cardboard and glass represent a greater tonnage of
waste. In our country where plastic usage is only 3.7 kg per
capita, the amount of plastics in the municipal waste is still
lower, barely 2 or 3%.
- To educate the public about the positive attributes of
all types of plastics by publishing literature, organizing
seminars and conference with National and International
participation of experts in the field. ICPE has also undertaken
the task of translating the literature into regional languages
so that the all important lay public in the remote corners
of the country understand and appreciates the information
and use it to save the environment.
- To initiate the all important Life Cycle Assessment Analysis
through Research Institutions of national repute and to
evaluate the impact of plastics on the environment. LCA
considers impact of a product on environment from its manufacturing
stage to its final disposal / disintegration - termed as
"cradle to grave" approach. That is :
iii. Transportation / Delivery
iv. Usage / reusage
v. Disposal, upto final disnitegration
Plastic conserves resources and it is 100 % recyclable.
- To regularly interact with Recyclers - one of the most
important member in the chain and ensure their involvement
and cooperation in the sorting, transporting and recycling
of the plastic waste in efficient manner. ICPE has commissioned
a proto type of Compactor for compacting voluminous plastic
waste comprising of water bottles, cups and such items.
The Proto type Compacting machine will convert the litter
prone mineral water bottles into manageable compacted bales
that can be transported economically to the Recycling facilities.
The recycling industry in our country remains unorganized
and needs upgradation. We need to ensure that recycling
continues to be a commercially viable proposition and a
market for properly recycled and labeled products for specific
applications is created. Modern technology must be applied
to mixed plastic waste recycling compacting and waste reuse.
Plastic industry should play an important role in this effort
in its own enlightened self interest.
Indian Centre for Plastics in the Environment is here to
interact and coordinate all the efforts with a common objective
- Provide, monitor and promote social, environmental and
technological inputs in respect of the plastic industry.
- Develop and encourage standards/ specifications/ guidelines
for plastic waste / recyclates for applications in various
- Circulate, collate, publish and disseminate statistical
data and technical information on Plastic waste industry
/ Plastic Industry.
The industry, through ICPE, needs to participate in constructive
dialogues and exchange of information with Government bodies,
Civic Authorities, NGOs and assist them in understanding and
appreciating the real issues plaguing our environment and
formulating the right approach in the interest of the Environment.
Our commitment for reduction of wastage at source needs to
be stressed. On one hand unnecessary non-functional packaging
should be cut down and on the other hand actively promote
reuse of material should be actively promoted. Fortunately
in our country reuse is an economic necessity and recycling
is an industry which provides livelihood to millions of poor
people. These initiatives must be supported by systematizing
and upgrading them with infusion of better technology, management
and funds wherever needed. We will then be truly subscribing
to the motto of Recover, Reuse and Recycle.