The rising problem of plastic waste in India

The rising problem of plastic waste in India
| 3 Min read

The biggest concern with plastic waste in India is not the amount of waste produced but ineffective waste management, such as improperly collecting and recycling waste.

Currently, the primary focus is collecting, managing, and properly disposing plastic waste. As we all know, the demand for new products and technology has grown over the last two decades, resulting in greater plastic consumption.

Who manages the majority of India’s plastic waste?

As India’s plastic demand reaches 20.89 million tonnes in 2021-22 and projected to continue growing to 22 million tonnes by 2023, the responsibility lies on the industry to adopt circular economy principles, not only to minimize waste and pollution but also to open new opportunities for growth and innovation.

As many as 4,953 registered units are engaged with plastic in 30 States/Union territories in India, a report by CPCB said. The report added 823 unregistered plastic manufacturing/recycling units in nine states/UTs.

The informal sector handles 42-86 percent of waste, lacking basic disposal techniques. The informal sector diverts the majority of waste to landfills due to a lack of knowledge and technology-enabled machinery, and waste material collected by the informal sector is not channeled transparently. Material recovery facilities and recyclers in the waste management industry often receive contaminated waste that cannot be recovered and is eventually disposed of in landfills.

The Indian government claims that 60% of the country’s plastic waste gets recycled. However, the reality is somewhat different, as India could only recycle 12% of its plastic waste, according to CSE statistics based on CPCB data.

Furthermore, 20% of plastic waste is diverted to co-incineration, plastic-to-fuel, and road construction, implying that 20% of our plastic waste gets burnt and 68% is unaccounted for.

Overusing plastic and neglecting disposal solutions for plastic over a long time led not only India but many other nations to adopt laws to limit plastic because of its increasing environmental damage. 

Also read, 5 major challenges in plastic waste recycling

How much plastic waste is generated in India annually?

India produces 9.3 million tonnes of plastic annually, with 25,490 per capita. Plastic waste generation has quadrupled in India over the past five years. Also, the pandemic created a surge in plastic production from FMCG markets, e-commerce, food-delivery services etc.  

The main problem is the uncollected plastic waste, which accounts for 40% dumped in landfills, clogging water bodies and polluting streets. This unmanaged plastic waste makes it easy to enter animal bellies and simultaneously to the plastic crisis and overproduction of plastic. 

60% of the plastic waste collected is not recycled, and there are many reasons why every kind of plastic is not recycled; by this, we can understand that only a small percentage of plastics are recycled, and the remaining all end up in landfills. 

Ocean plastic waste is also a severe problem in India; according to a study by Phew Trusts (2022), the plastic waste entering oceans is at an annual rate of 11 metric tonnes, harming marine life and damaging habitats. If it continues, it poses a considerable risk, especially in waterways and when wind pushes the plastics deeper into the oceans. 

The oceans around Mumbai, Kerala, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the world’s most polluted.

Plastic waste impacts at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of sea turtle species, 44% of seabird species, and 43% of marine mammal species.

And the massive accumulation of plastic waste in India is due to increased urbanisation, the rise of retail chains, and plastic packaging for groceries, food, cosmetics, consumer products, etc., which is the primary cause of environmental and human-kind damage.

Also read, Government rules on plastic waste management

How can plastic waste in India be reduced?

It is not simple to lower our use of plastic. But if we take it seriously, we can make a significant difference in our lives and the lives of others.

Avoid using single-use plastics

The Indian government enacted a ban on single-use plastics on July 1, 2022. It is a commendable decision by the government since single-use plastic waste accounts for 43 % of plastic waste generated in India.

Individuals must still take responsibility for reducing their usage of single-use plastics at home and while shopping. 

Remember to bring a cloth bag with you when shopping or grocery shopping

It is critical to utilise reusable bags such as fabric, wicker, or string instead of plastic bags. This one simple step builds a will to enhance our planet’s health.

Also read, New age innovations: Shoes made from recycled plastic bags

Glass or steel containers should be used instead of Tupperware or other plasticware

It seems easy to carry a Tupperware lunchbox and a water bottle to work. What is vital is understanding how plasticware affects our environment, mainly how plastic containers release harmful substances when exposed to heated food.

Avoid using cosmetics microplastics; use biodegradable brushes and natural textiles

Choose plastic-free alternatives, such as wooden brushes, micro-plastic-free lipstick, and T-shirts made of natural fibers.

Choose to reuse and repurpose some of the packaging

If you purchase a plastic bottle or container at the grocery, reuse it rather than toss it away. A bottle may be refilled as many times as needed, and containers can be used to hold more food.

Recykal channeled 3,71,345 metric tonnes of waste from landfills over the years and aimed to divert even more in the coming year through our digital solutions.

Explore our solutions here.

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