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Banning, not the solution

THE TAMIL Nadu Plastics Manufacturers Association (TAPMA) recently conducted an evaluation of the proposed prohibition on `non-reusable' plastics. Plastics have become an integral part of our lives and are affordable and safe, especially for the lower income groups of society. While the ban on plastics has been a much-talked-about issue, is it possible to get back to the good old days where plastics were not in use? And is banning the only solution?

Experts from the plastic industries stressed the need for proper methods of solid waste management as one of the alternatives. The problem is not plastics but improper waste management and the awareness among the public, pointed out S.K Verma, Director General, Central Institute of Plastics Engineering (CIPET). Moreover, the waste should be segregated into wet waste and dry waste at the source for better recycling processes. Almost all commonly used plastics are recyclable, he suggested. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the disposal of plastics, claimed A. N. Bhatt, Director General, Indian Centre for Plastics in Environment (ICPE). Stressing the point that plastics are inert and when burnt do not release dioxin, considered to cause health hazards.

Mr. Swaminathan, chairman of the environment committee of TAPMA claimed that there is no realistic alternative to plastics when it comes to issues of hygiene, safety and availability and any other alternate product cannot be mass-produced like plastics are. Globally, plastic packaging of food and medicine is considered safe in the food and hospitality industry, he added.

However, statistics reveal that India has 3 kg of the polymer per capita consumption when compared to the 20 kg of the world average consumption. While this being the scenario, ban of plastics would pose a threat to the 5,500 small-scale plastics units that employ as much as eight lakh people. Issues like plastics being as an important factor for environmental degradation, have been already addressed in the developing countries and a solution has been found, yet plastics have not been banned in those countries, Mr.Swaminathan said.

The speakers unanimously agreed that the plastic industry is willing to tie up with local bodies, NGOs and other social welfare organisations to promote segregation of waste at source and facilitate recycling of plastics.

A rational approach for this issue would be to educate people about the effects of littering of plastics in public places and create awareness about the solid waste management rules.

PRASSANA SRINIVASAN

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