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Niti Aayog Report on Alternatives to Plastics

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Context:

A Niti Ayog report has suggested on plastic alternatives or technologies making plastic degradable

What does the report say?

Status:

  • India produces 3.47 mn tn of plastic waste/year, out of which 60% is collected for recycling.
  • Goa, Delhi & Kerala have reported the highest per capita plastic waste generation, while Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura have reported the lowest per capita plastic waste generation.
  • Globally, 97-99% of these plastics are derived from fossil fuel feedstock while the remaining 1-3% come from bio (plant) based plastics

 

Recommendations:

  • Develop emerging technologies:g., additives can make plastics biodegradable polyolefins, such as polypropylene and polyethylene
  • Use of Bio-plastics: as a cost-effective alternative to plastics
  • Appreciate the contribution of the Informal sector and vulnerable groups in recycling waste
  • Use Extended Producer responsibility to minimize waste
  • Levelling and collection of compostable and biodegradable plastics
  • Transparency: Disclose data on waste generation, collection and disposal
  • Avoid greenwashing: Greenwashing is the process of conveying misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound

 

Best Practices:

India:

  • Arunachal Pradesh: Plastic banks were established in one district; Plastic was used in Road Construction in variable districts
  • Delhi: Environmental compensation of INR 88,00,000/- levied for violation of PWM Rules
  • Tamil Nadu Collection efficiency of plastic waste is 92%
  • Sikkim: Usage of plastic waste in road construction initiated
  • Uttarakhand: The use of plastic waste as fuel, RDF and waste in energy plants is proposed
  • Biodegradable cutlery: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Lab DFRL has developed technology for biodegradable cutlery

World:

  • Edible Seaweed Cups (Indonesia): Seaweed can grow up to 60 times faster than land-based plants, making it an important carbon sink
  • Algae-blended ethylene-vinyl acetate: A US-based firm has created algae-blended ethylene-vinyl acetate transforming air and water pollution (ammonia, phosphates, and carbon dioxide) into plant biomass rich in proteins
  • Zero plastic recycled paper bottle: A UK firm has invented the only commercially available zero plastic recycled paper bottle in the world
  • Wood-based paper packaging: In 2020, a Scotland-based paper manufacturing company developed a sustainable wood-based alternative to plastic packaging
  • Biotransformation process: A UK-based company has developed an additive which, when added to the masterbatch of polyolefins, i.e., PE and PP, onsets the degradation

Types of Environmentally friendly plastics

  • Bio-plastics encompass many materials that are either bio-sourced or biodegradable or both and are made from renewable biomass resources, most often corn starch/ sugarcane/ cassava – which might be either biodegradable or not.
  • Biodegradable plastic means that plastics, other than compostable plastics, which undergo complete degradation by biological processes under ambient environmental (terrestrial or in water) conditions, in specified time periods, without leaving any microplastics, or visible, distinguishable or toxic residue, which has adverse environmental impacts, adhering to laid down standards of BIS and certified by CPCB.
  • Compostable plastics: Plastics that undergo degradation by biological processes during composting to yield CO2, water, inorganic compounds and biomass, and do not leave toxic residue. These can be plant-based, but can also be petroleum-based as well.
    • BASF’s Ecoflex is an excellent example of a compostable polymer, which is partly petroleum-based but is compostable at industrial compost facilities.
  • Oxo-degradable: Plastics are conventional plastics such as PE, which include an additive to help them break down into smaller fragments, which could lead to microplastic leakage in the environment.

 

Current Affairs 

 

<strong>Single-Use Plastic </strong>

Single-use plastic banned from July 1:

  • The Centre defines it as an object made of plastic that is intended to be used “only once” before being disposed off or recycled.
  • A list of 21 items that come under the definition of single use plastic including earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, icecream sticks, thermocol for decoration, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons,knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packaging films around sweet boxes, invitation cards and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 microns, stirrers.
  • These objects were listed by the Environment Ministry under the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
  • Single use plastic items such as these had “low utility and high littering potential.
  • Plastic Packaging waste, a major contributor to the much larger problem of plastic waste pollution, isn’t yet covered under the phaseout of single use plastic items.
  • Mineral water bottles or plastic bottles of aerated drinks are unaffected by the ban, though, in popular imagination, they are representative of ‘plastic pollution.’

 

 Insta Links

For more on SUP: Single-Use Plastics

PLASTIC IN BLOOD

 

Practice Question

Q. Enumerate the steps taken by India to tackle plastic pollution in the country. Do you think a legally binding global treaty on plastics and plastic pollution is the way forward? Critically examine. (250 words)

 

Q. Critically analyze Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules. 2021. Discuss how the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules will be implemented?

 

Q. Which one of the following has been constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986? (UPSC CSE 2022)

(a) Central Water Commission
(b) Central Ground Water Board
(c) Central Ground Water Authority
(d) National Water Development Agency

Ans: (c)

Justification:

Central Ground Water Authority has been constituted under Section 3 (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to regulate and control the development and management of groundwater resources in the country.

 

Q. In India, ‘extended producer responsibility’ was introduced as an important feature in which of the following? (UPSC CSE 2019)

 

(a) The Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998

(b) The Recycled Plastic (Manufacturing and Usage) Rules, 1999

(c) The E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011

(d) The Food Safety and Standard Regulations, 2011

Answer: C

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products. It was added through E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011.

Source: Niti Ayog