Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on the nation to abandon single-use plastic in less than a month. Speaking at an event at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, the prime minister made an appeal to make this a reality by October 2, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
PM Modi called for efforts to rid homes and workplaces of single-use plastic. He also urged self-help groups, civil societies and individuals to join the mission. Food and consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan also argued for a blanker ban and asked manufacturers to come up with alternatives.
Bags, straws, stirrers, soda and water bottles, food packets and several other daily use products are made out of single-use plastic. It is also used in disposable syringes, solar panels and several other products. Ironically, since the 1970s, the use of plastic was promoted as a measure to protect the environment as it stopped the large-scale culling of trees.
While the problems with plastic are real as it is not biodegradable, the real issue lies with recycling. According to a 2018 study by the United Nations, only 9 percent of the plastic across the world are recycled. A whopping 79 percent were left in landfills and oceans.
However, India seems to be on the right track. According to a Morgan Stanley report, 60 percent of the plastic currently used in India is recycled, which is almost on par with Germany and twice the recycling rate in the US.
With the talk for a blanket ban gathering steam, the plastic manufacturers association in India has raised the red flag. They warn that 10,000 companies could be hit and 4 lakh jobs could be at risk.
CNBC-TV18 spoke to Behram Mehta, MD at Aava Natural Mineral Water and president of Natural Mineral Water Association, Jayesh Rambhia, Co-chairman, Environment Committee at AIPMA, and Sachin Sharma, Co-founder of GEM Enviro Management to understand whether a nationwide ban is the right answer to the plastic menace.
MehtaÂ pointed out that the PM had talked only about single-use plastic. "In India, there is a fantastic ecosystem of ragpickers and recyclers, which has achieved in PET plastic a recycling rate of 92 percent, a world record. The list of single use plastics is being made and everybody is clear that it is going to be done in such a way that the Indian economy is not hurt in anyway," he observed.
However, Rambhia noted that the definition of single use plastic is not yet in place, the rules are not formed and the whole industry has come under pressure. "Now as an industry, we look at our leaders to give us aspiration for growth, so that we can meet the needs of the consumers and create employment. Instead here, because of our mismanagement of plastic waste, because of littering habits of consumers, the whole industry has come under pressure. The PM in his speech on Independence Day rightly said that he wanted to make India free of plastic pollution. I think somewhere the whole thing got lost in translation. India is recycling 60 percent of plastic compared to 30 percent in Europe and the US, so we are doing pretty well. Only thing we need to control is littering," he opined.In terms of plastic packaging waste in India, 94 percent is already recyclable, as per the Central Pollution Control Board study, says Sharma. "Also the recycling rates of the total plastic packaging is about 60 percent. In certain items like PET, it is as high as 90 percent. In order to increase the recycling rates for the other plastic packaging we need to ensure that they need have some kind of economic value. PET has got economic value and therefore it is getting picked up, the collection rates are high and the recycling rates are high. In case of items like multi-layer packaging there is hardly any economic value and therefore it is not picked up by the ragpickers. We have to find a way to address this issue," he added.