Plastic waste is and always has been a source of great concern in the country what with the total tonnage amounting to 25,940 per day. The Union Environment Ministry’s, Minister of State, Dr Mahesh Sharma referred to a study conducted by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in the Lok Sabha in context of plastic waste concern. The study that included a survey of 60 major cities revealed that their total plastic waste production amounted to 4059 tonnes per day. The concentration of plastic in the municipal solid waste was particularly high for Surat, 12.47%; while for Chandigarh it was a low 3.1%.
The ministry gave details about a study assigned by CPCB to the Indian Institute of Toxicological Research, Lucknow; titled ‘Impact of Plastic Waste Disposal on Soil and Water Quality at Lucknow Dumpsites’. The plastic waste contains chloride, heavy metals, phthalates and this gets transferred to the surrounding medium. Adjoining soil, surface water or ground is heavily contaminated. A major pollution problem is created by the leachate.
As per the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, it is the responsibility of water generators to reduce the plastic amounts, avoid adding to litter and ensure waste segregation at source before passing to local authorities.
The rules state that waste generators, local bodies, retailers, street vendors and gram panchayats must focus on managing the plastic waste while importers, producers and brand owners need to focus on collection of plastic waste. Greater attempts are being made for reusing and recycling of plastic waste so that landfills will not be affected by leaching chemicals. Many states including Maharashtra have used plastic waste in their road construction projects.
Recently, a forum of 20 cities and municipalities was initiated by the Center for Science and Environment wherein the members pledged their total commitment to source segregation by October 2, 2019. Alappuzha came out as the model city while Surat was not a participant.