Government may tell e-commerce firms like Amazon, Flipkart to cut plastic use

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The Centre is considering several measures to combat the growing menace of plastic, focusing on production, usage, and recycling.

The government may also consider telling large e-commerce companies such as Amazon India and Flipkart Ltd to stop using as much plastic as they do. It will also try to make more roads with plastic, government officials familiar with the matter said, detailing the government’s war on plastic which also found a mention in the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech.

Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Sekhawat said last week that a mission will be launched on September 17 — also Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday — for collecting, segregating and recycling plastic across the country. “We are looking for complete disposal of plastic waste after Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a clarion call from the ramparts of the Red Fort (on August 15) to make India plastic-free. We have to convert this movement into a jan andolan (people’s movement) just like Swachh Bharat,” Shekhawat said on Friday.

Around 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India every day, of which only 9,000 tonnes is collected and recycled, according to the ministry of environment, forest and climate change. Around 40% of the plastic used in disposable products, such as grocery bags, cutlery and straws, ends up choking landfills, drains, rivers and getting leached into soil and water.

PM Narendra Modi called on people to stop use of single-use plastic bags in his Independence Day speech this year.

“I request citizens to see if we can make India single-use plastic free from October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti). Schools, colleges, municipalities, urban bodies, gram panchayats can collect single use plastic bags from their areas and on October 2 we can take up the task of phasing out use of single use plastic bags in a big way,” Modi said.

A high-level meeting involving secretaries of select ministries and officials from the Prime Minister’s Office took place on Thursday to discuss how to implement the PM’s plan. According to the government officials cited in the first instance, a number of new regulations are expected to come in place to curb production and consumption of plastic while many new measures will also be taken for better recycling.

The ministries of environment, and housing and urban affairs will focus on implementing Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, to regulate manufacture, sale, distribution and use of plastic carry bags and plastic sheets for packaging, the officials said. Plans are also being finalised to introduce phasing out four single-use plastic products — styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, disposable plastic cutlery and plastic carry bags — on a voluntary basis at first, and then mandatorily.

While a lion’s share of plastic is generated in urban centres, the rural development ministry too, plans more use of plastic waste in its works. “We have 3.1 million lakh elected gram panchayat members and another 60 million women in self help groups. We are launching community connect programmes to ensure villages are free from single plastic use. We will also emphasise on segregation of solid waste so that plastic can be used for building rural roads,” said rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha.

He added that the rural roads programme has so far built 8,000 to 10,000 kms using plastic to reduce bitumen. “Around 15% of our roads were built through green technologies that include plastic, fly ash cell filled concrete. Now, at least 25% of our roads will be built using plastic,” said Sinha, adding that Tamil Nadu has developed an efficient system of solid waste management which will likely to be used as one of the models in the country’s renewed war against plastic.

A senior government official insisted that a clampdown on production of plastic, but that this would be difficult. “The problem in India is that many plastic packs, especially those used for gutkha (chewing tobacco) and other items, come from small units which are not even registered with the government. In order to make our action against plastic more effective, there has to be a clampdown on such units.”

India has pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 which, along with leading the International Solar Alliance, won PM Modi the United Nations Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth award.

Flipkart said it is already working towards reducing plastic packaging in its value chain. “Sustainability is a very big agenda for Flipkart. We are not only focusing on renewable energy, waste management, water management, last mile electric vehicle (EV) connectivity, but also proactively experimenting and working with partners on reducing plastic packaging in the value chain,” said Rajneesh Kumar, chief corporate affairs officer, Flipkart Group

Officials at Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tiny bits of plastic have been found everywhere, from city dust to drinking water to Arctic ice floes and the Mariana Trench, 36,000 feet below the earth’s surface. On Thursday, the World Health Organization released a report on the health effect of drinking plastic-infused water and concluded that given the limited scientific evidence, drinking microplastics does not damage human health.

Source: Hindustan Times

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