India generates approximately 0.025 MT of plastic waste every day. Out of this, 94 per cent is thermoplastic content, which includes polyethylene terephthalate PET, low-density polyethylene (LPDE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), all of this being recyclable. Thermoset plastics consisting of sheet molded composite (SMC), fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP), multi-layered and thermocol forms 6 per cent of the total waste generated that is non-recyclable. With an increased focus on urbanization and industrialization, the per capita plastic consumption in India in 2017 was 11 kg, according to EY’s market research and data analysis. That said, there are many cities—India and globally—that has effectively managed the plastic menace.
Effective information, education and communication (IEC) to implement the plastic ban in Sikkim was the first India State to ban plastic bags in 1998. Discarded plastic bags were one of the major factors responsible for choked drainage systems thus resulting in landslides. Since the implementation of the ban, Sikkim has been an active agent of change through IEC and behavioral change campaigns, promoting the use of sustainable materials in consumer products. Initiatives such as “Plastic Free Days” are undertaken to maintain low tolerance for waste and improve consumer awareness on the perils of plastic bags, bottles, etc.
In central Madhya Pradesh, waste-pickers collect and then hand over the plastic waste to collection centers run by the municipal corporation. The plastic waste is scanned, segregated and most single-use plastics, which comprise half of all the plastic that is used, are shredded and baled. These bales are then taken for co-processing at cement kilns and are used in building roads. It’s a win-win. Not only do the waste-collectors get paid twice as much but something useful is also done with the plastic litter that threatens to overrun our environment.
Successful EPR implementation in Bengaluru Saahas, a private waste management start-up, has entered into MoUs with large corporates. Saahas gets the plastic packaging collected and delivered to cement kilns for energy recovery. Such packaging cannot have food waste mixed in, hence segregation is the key.
In 2008, the Rwandan Government banned the manufacturing, use, sale and importation of all plastic bags. Plastic bags were replaced by paper bags and the citizens started using reusable bags made of cotton. In addition to the ban, tax incentives were provided to companies willing to invest in plastic recycling equipment or in the manufacturing of environmentally friendly bags. Gradually, enforcement of the law became stricter and citizens became used to the new regulation. In 2008, Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, was nominated as the cleanest city in Africa by the UN-Habitat.
In 2015, single-use Styrofoam containers (a kind of expanded polystyrene used especially for making food containers) were banned in New York. The ban was applicable to all stores that sold or offered polystyrene packaging. However, a coalition of recycling firms and plastic manufacturers, who claimed that Styrofoam is recyclable, proposed a recycling plan for the foamed plastic items. The ban was reinstated in 2017, following a report by the New York City Department of Sanitation which found that it was impossible to recycle Styrofoam.
Rotterdam, a city in the Netherlands, has set an example for other cities regarding the management of plastic waste. Rotterdam’s floating park has become a tourist spot and is made from plastic recycled from Rotterdam’s waterways. The recycled plastic is constructed into hexagonal pods. These pods can also be used to create gardens, as a habitat for wildlife or just as a place for the public to hangout.
Freiburg is known as the “greenest city in Germany”. In 2016, Freiburg decided to ban the use of disposable coffee cups. The disposable coffee cups are not recyclable, voluminous and rapidly fill the city dustbins. With approximately 2.8 billion disposable coffee cups being consumed by Germany every year, Freiburg took a visionary step and put an end to the use of these coffee cups.