Plastic is Omni-present. It takes more than 500 to 1000 years to degrade. Dumping it under the soil or oceans won’t solve the problem. More than half of the world particularly the developing countries are struggling to get rid of this ubiquitous problem. Among them India is said to be one the biggest plastic waste producer because of its population size and economic growth. India is turning into a big plastic waste dump because of less advance technology of recycling, negligence of the authorities and lack of public awareness. India seriously needs to do something in order to get out of this crisis otherwise it would be drowned in waste. India should work on innovating more and more methods to get benefits out of this plastic waste like road construction and try to minimize the amount of plastic waste in future.
The prominent causes behind plastic waste generation is urbanization, plastic packaging, consumer items and spread of retail chains. First plastic industry in India was formed in 1957. After 30 years of the formation of that industry, its side effects started appearing. In 2015, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimated that plastic waste generation is about 6.92% of municipal solid waste and 25,940 tons of plastic waste per day is generated in almost 60 major cities in India out of which more than 9,400 tons ends up in the environment. Among them Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad are the biggest producers of plastic waste in India. In 2018, plastic processing industries of India revealed that its consumption would be increased by 10.4% from 2017 to 2022. Still some states in India are managing the plastic waste to plants for co-processing. Others are using it in road construction and waste for energy plants and oil production.
Experts have estimated that India’s plastic waste generation will be increased up to 165 million tons by 2030 if the government and nation won’t do anything about it. About 60% of plastic waste dumped in the oceans every year comes from India. Ban on plastic bags in India is ineffective because the ban is not on all types of plastic bags but on thinner plastic bags (50 microns) only. Also there is no proper enforcement of this law by the specified agencies. India’s plastic waste crisis begin 30 years after the formation of plastic industries there in 1957. A study by un-plastic collective (UPC) showed that “Globally, over 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since 1950, and about 60 per cent of that has ended up in landfills or in the natural environment. India generates 9.46 million tons of plastic waste annually, of which 40 per cent, remain s uncollected; 43 per cent is used for packaging, most of which is single-use”
India has to face a lot of health hazards because of this plastic waste. During rainy seasons, plastic bottles gets filled with water and then becomes a home to the diseases related to mosquitoes like dengue fever, malaria etc. According to Plastic Soup Foundation, “chemicals in plastic can cause cancer, heart failure, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, arthritis, infertility and even damage unborn babies in the uterus.” Most of the plastic in India is utilized by the packaging industry. Since that industry would likely grow to 22 million tons by 2020 according to a study by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an immediate alternative is much needed to tackle this situation. Among the ten rivers that pollutes most of the oceans and seas in the world, two of them The Indus and The Ganges from India are on the second and sixth number respectively. In the past, the Namami Gange Project was introduced by the Indian government to clean The Ganges but according to National Green Tribunal, “not a single drop of the Ganga has been cleaned so far”.
There are several small initiatives taken by some Indians in order to raise awareness regarding this issue. There is a school in India which takes school fees in the form of plastic waste instead of money in order to improve the condition of that area. One of the state of India has introduced garbage cafe which provides full meal to the person who provides them with 1 kg of plastic waste which is used later on for road construction most of the times. UN-environment program-India, confederation of Indian industry (CII) and WWF-India launched Un-plastic collective (UPC) in New Delhi, India. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has start a “New mass movement” to eliminate the single-use of plastic by 2022. But they should also work recycling process of the waste as well as affordable alternatives like bio-degradable plastic bags, cutlery etc. In Kerala, Suchitwa Sagaram or Clean Sea campaign was introduced in which several fishermen plays their part in reducing the plastic waste by collecting the waste from oceans and then sending that to recycling departments which is later on used in road surfacing. During the campaigns first 10 months, it removed 25 tons of plastic from the Arabian Sea according to a UN report. In Tamil Nadu, more than half of the roads are made from plastic.
In order to get the desirable results, India needs to up its game on strict laws, enforcement mechanism, affordable alternatives, recycling systems, awareness campaigns etc. Indian government should adopt strategies like a proper National Action Plan regarding this before they lose complete control over the crisis. After that just like the developed nations, India would be successful in achieving some of the sustainable development goals like good health and well-being , clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, life below water and life on land in the near future. Indore is the cleanest city of India because of its successful public awareness campaigns. World Bank estimates that by 2050, India’s waste would rise by three and half times than today and its large population and urbanization would make its waste generation rise up to 3.4 billion by 2050. So, other cities of India should also adopt the measures to get rid of this plastic waste just like Indore. Online retails and food delivery apps are also contributing a lot in the increase of plastic waste. Sikkim in India was the first state in banning plastic bags. But there is a big difference between just randomly announcing the ban on the use of plastic bags and properly verify the ban. The monitoring and enforcement system in India is not that capable. Rodrigues points out, we need to be ready to live in a world where there is plastic in our food, our water and our bodies.