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Biodiversity & Environment

Green Initiatives for Effective Plastic Waste Management

  • 06 Apr 2022
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Prakriti, National Dashboard on Elimination of Single Use Plastic, Extended Producer Responsibility Portal, Graphene, Plastic Waste and Related Initiatives.

For Mains: Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Government Policies & Interventions, Plastic Waste and Related Initiatives.

Why in News?

Recently, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) launched the Awareness Mascot ‘Prakriti’& Green Initiatives for Effective Plastic Waste Management.

  • The mascot will spread greater awareness among masses about small changes that can be sustainably adopted in our lifestyle for a better environment.
  • Earlier in February, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change announced the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022.

What are the Green Initiatives Launched?

  • National Dashboard on Elimination of Single Use Plastic (SUP) and Plastic Waste Management by MoEFCC to bring all stakeholders including Central Ministries/ Departments, State/UT Governments at one place and track the progress made for elimination of SUP and effective management of plastic waste.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Portal by Central Pollution Control Board {CPCB} for Plastic Packaging, improving accountability, traceability, transparency and facilitating ease of reporting compliance to EPR Obligations by Producers, Importers and Brand-owners
  • Mobile App for Single Use Plastics Grievance Redressal by CPCB to empower citizens to check sale/usage/manufacturing of SUP in their area and tackle the plastic menace.
  • Monitoring module for Single Use Plastics (SUPs) by CPCB for local bodies, State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and CPCB, to inventorize details of SUP production/ sale & usage in commercial establishments at district level, and on-ground enforcement of ban on SUP.
  • Industrial production of Graphene from Waste Plastic by National Institute of Health and Environment & National Research Development Corporation to promote more industries to come forward to upcycle plastic waste.

What is Plastic Waste?

  • Unlike other forms of wastes like paper, food peels, leaves etc, which are biodegradable (capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms) in nature, plastic waste because of its non-biodegradable nature persists into the environment, for hundreds (or even thousands) of years.
  • Plastic pollution is caused by the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment. It can be categorised in primary plastics, such as cigarette butts and bottle caps, or secondary plastics, resulting from the degradation of the primary ones.
  • Plastic has become one of the most pressing environmental issues that we are facing today.
    • India is generating about 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually and the per capita plastic waste generation has almost doubled over the last five years.
  • Plastic pollution adversely affects our ecosystems and is also linked to air pollution.

What are the Major Challenges to Plastic Waste Management?

  • Mismanaged Plastic Waste (plastic dumped openly): In the form of microplastics/microbeads when plastic enters the environment via inland waterways, wastewater outflows, and transport by wind or tides cannot all be filtered out once it enters the ocean.
    • As plastics travel with ocean currents, an island of trash called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been created.
  • Spurious Biodegradable Plastic: In the absence of robust testing and certification to verify claims made by producers, spurious biodegradable and compostable plastics are entering the marketplace.
  • Online or E-Commerce Companies: Apart from the plastic we consume through traditional retail, the popularity of online retail and food delivery apps, though restricted to big cities, is contributing to the rise in plastic waste.
  • Microplastics: After entering into the aquatic environment, microplastics can travel vast distances floating in seawater, or sediment to the seabed. A recent study has revealed that microplastics in the atmosphere are trapped by the clouds and the falling snow.
    • Microplastic particles are commonly white or opaque in colour, which are commonly mistaken by many surface-feeding fishes as food (plankton) and can even move up the food chain to human consumers (from eating contaminated fish/seafood/shellfish).
  • Marine Litter: Plastic pollution in freshwater and marine environments have been identified as a global problem and it is estimated that plastic pollution accounts for 60-80% of marine plastic waste.
  • Terrestrial Plastic: 80% of plastic pollution originates from land-based sources with the remainder from ocean-based sources (fishing nets, fishing ropes).

Way Forward

  • Raising awareness amongst the public of the harm caused by plastic pollution through education and outreach programs to modify behaviour.
  • Finding substitutes for use-and-throw plastic and ensuring alternative livelihoods for producers, waste pickers and other groups involved in the business will go a long way in solving the problem.
  • The government should not only place fines for not adhering to the guidelines but incentivise producers to switch to more sustainable products. Along with proper monitoring, promoting responsible consumerism is very important.
  • Identify and engage key stakeholder groups like retailers, consumers, industry representatives, local government, manufacturers, civil society, environmental groups, and tourism associations in order to ensure broad buy-in.
  • Citizens also have to bring behavioural change and contribute by not littering and helping in waste segregation and waste management.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs):

Q. Bisphenol A (BPA), a cause of concern, is a structural/ key component in the manufacture of which of the following kinds of plastics?

(a) Low-density polyethylene
(b) Polycarbonate
(c) Polyethylene terephthalate
(d) Polyvinyl chloride

Ans: (b)

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities, primarily for the use in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.

Q.Why is there a great concern about the ‘microbeads’ that are released into environment? (2019)

(a) They are considered harmful to marine ecosystems.
(b) They are considered to cause skin cancer in children.
(c) They are small enough to be absorbed by crop plants in irrigated fields.
(d) They are often found to be used as food adulterants.

Ans: (a)

Source: PIB

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