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Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

CPCB calls for action plan on plastic waste

Board tells civic bodies to check open burning of plastic waste, restrict plastic bags of thinner than 40 microns, start mass awareness programmes

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India’s apex pollution watchdog, has directed civic bodies across the country to take immediate steps to check ecological damage from the tonnes of plastic waste being dumped in landfills.

Calling for an action plan for plastic waste management, the CPCB has told the civic bodies to check the open burning of plastic waste, restrict plastic bags of less than 40 microns thickness and start extensive mass awareness programmes.

It also suggested municipalities to set up a proper plastic waste management system within six months to ensure collection, segregation and transportation for proper disposal, processing and recycling.

Plastic use has seen rapid growth in the country. Around 12 million tonnes of plastic products are consumed every year and it is expected to rise further. About 50-60% of this is converted into waste.

According to a CPCB study, released in early 2015, around 3,501 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day across 60 major Indian cities. Most of that usually ends up at landfills where it leaks toxic pollutants into soil and water.

The improper collection and disposal also leads to plastic waste choking drains, making land infertile and leading to the death of livestock that consume it. A 2014 report by the UN Environmental Programme estimated financial damage of $13 billion a year by plastics to marine ecosystems.

The CPCB has also asked state pollution control boards to ensure that all the illegal and unregistered factories involved in the manufacture of sub-standard (less than 40 micron thickness) carry bags shall be shut down immediately.

“Secretaries-in-charge of municipal bodies in each state shall ensure that all municipal bodies ban stocking, selling and use of any carry bag (having handle or non-handle) having less than 40 micron thickness plastic material. Those found stocking/selling such carry bags shall be penalized by imposing a fine of 1 lakh," the CPCB said.

It is not the first time that the CPCB has moved to address the problem of plastic waste. But rules for collection, segregation, transportation and disposal of plastic waste are widely flouted.

“This is like old wine in new bottle. Question still is who will implement it? Central and state pollution control boards should list it on their website every month as to how many people have been penalized, so that the progress can be monitored and there is public scrutiny," said Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link, an environmental NGO.

Manoj Misra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a civil society campaign to save the Yamuna, said, “We do not think there is any measure to control plastic waste other than a complete ban on plastic. There is nothing that plastic is not polluting—soil, air and water, river streams and other water bodies. These ad hoc measures are not going to solve the problem."

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