Future scenarios of global plastic waste generation and disposal

The foundation of today’s fast-paced world is laid on the bricks of plastics. Undoubtedly, plastic has innumerable uses, but humans have become dependent on single-use or disposable plastic. Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, as the rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them.

Almost a million plastic bottles are purchased in a minute around the world. And studies show that around 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide in 1 year. Looking at the total plastic production, we can conclude that half of the plastic produced is only for time use.

Analysing the impact of plastic pollution, the negatives are far more than the positives. So the question is, how did we get here?

Plastic was produced in significantly less quantity during 1950-70, and hence it was easy to manage the plastic waste at that time. By the 1990’s it tripled, and in the early 2000, plastic waste increased in a single decade than it had in the last 40 years.

Today, 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year, equal to the weight of the entire human population on this planet.

Slowing down our plastic production is the need of the hour. But we also need to ameliorate how we manage our plastic waste generation.

79% of the plastic waste ends up in landfills. Only 9% of the plastic waste is recycled. A recent survey showed that the most common plastic found in the environment is a tiny plastic in the filter of cigarette butts. The next common items are bottle caps, drinking bottles, straws and food wrappers. Almost all of us use these plastic products every day.

Plastic is a significant contribution to ocean pollution as the rivers carry all the plastic waste along with them. A total 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. Rivers work like a conveyor belt carrying more and more garbage(plastic) as they move downstream. Once the trash reaches the ocean, it travels around the world.

90% of the plastic waste that ends up in the ocean is carried by 12 rivers are Niger, Nile, Indus, Meghna, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Hia He, Amur, Mekong, Huang He, Chang Jiang, and Zhujiang.

We all know that any kind of plastic waste on mother earth- whether water bodies or on land can persist for more than 100 years. Plastic waste never disappears; it only breaks down into smaller particles. The properties that make plastic so worthwhile for us are the same properties that make it infeasible to break down.

Thousands and millions of animals are killed because of the plastics in our rivers and oceans. Many marine animals swallow plastic bags and other tiny plastic items, destining them to our dinner plates.

In a very few decades, plastic pollution has created an unimaginable impact on our ecosystem. But still, some hope is left. Human beings created this problem, and human beings also have the power to reverse this problem or at least slow down the noxious impacts of plastic pollution.

If the current scenario continues, our oceans will have more plastic than marine animals in the near future.

Now the time has come for human beings to stop turning a deaf ear to this problem and take action. Reducing our dependence on plastic products is the need of the hour. By recycling and reusing products, we can definitely reduce the devastating impacts of plastic pollution.

Why Plastic Recycling?

  • Recycling plastic reduces the release of carbon dioxide and harmful gases into the environment.
  • Plastic recycling conserves the space used as landfills.
  • It makes it possible to use those landfills for other purposes.
  • Recycling saves petroleum that producers may use to make new plastics.
  • Plastic recycling lessens the energy that manufacturers consume in creating new products.
  • Plastic recycling prevents global warming.
  • Plastic recycling reduces the emergence of all forms of pollution.
  • Plastic recycling provides income for volunteers who collect plastic waste.
  • Plastic recycling helps reduce activities like deforestation that happen when making new plastic.

Well, while relaxing on the beach, no one wants to think how the sea has become a trash soup. So it’s high time that we should create awareness about plastic pollution and try our best to reduce single-use of plastic.

8 Ways To Reduce Plastic Waste?

Plastics have become an inextricable component of our everyday life. While plastics are undeniably convenient, efficient, and make all of our lives a little simpler, they have resulted in significant worldwide plastic pollution for which the world has no definite remedy. Because of its pervasiveness, giving it up may be tough; it necessitates not just a change in behaviour, but also a shift in mentality. Plastic is problematic because it is non-biodegradable and therefore lasts much longer (for example, up to 1000 years) than other types of trash.

Fortunately, organisations and governments all across the world are proposing policies to limit their environmental impact. However, there are things that every one of us can do to help stop plastic from spreading.

Here are methods to cut down on your plastic consumption.

  1. Avoid single-use plastics: Our lives are made simpler by plastic straws, plates, and cutlery, yet they have a significant environmental effect. If feasible, use metal, bamboo or use biodegradable plastics.
  2. Use cloth bags instead of plastic bags when you go shopping.
  3. Purchase in large quantities: Disposable containers abound (polystyrene trays, PET bottles, tetra packs, plastic containers, and so on), but more and more retailers are also providing bulk purchases of grains and rice.
  4. Reconsider your food storage options: Rather than using plastic baggies, wrap, or storage containers, consider utilising a bento box or tiffin.
  5. Microplastic-containing cosmetics should be avoided.
  6. Avoid using disposable rubbish bags by composting food waste.
  7. If you do use plastics, make sure to recycle them properly and in compliance with your local recycling regulations.
  8. Use a water bottle that can be refilled.

Plastic Waste Facts

  1. In 2020 we generated over 500 million tons of plastic waste, which is 900% higher than in 1980.
  2. Single-use plastics have a 12- to 15-minute functional life and can take up to 500 years to degrade.
  3. Every year, 500 billion plastic bottles are manufactured throughout the world.
  4. Ocean plastics will most certainly outnumber fish by 2050.
  5. More than 150 million tonnes of plastic waste have been found in the ocean.

Source-

How can plastic producers make recycling viable?

Leo Baekeland was a Belgian-American chemist who invented plastic accidentally. Still, its invention got a lot of praise due to the “n” number of advantages of plastic, such as being easy to carry, readily available, cheap, waterproof, and most importantly, its life span. But now, years later, its durability is causing problems, and its advantages are changing into disadvantages. Due to its extended lifespan, it is not degrading into inorganic or organic substances and filling up the massive landfills & polluting the ambiance by releasing poisonous gases. So, to solve this issue, authorities have introduced an EPR scheme for plastic, just like electronic waste, in 2012.  

What is EPR Plastic? 

EPR Plastic is the Extended Producer Responsibility for plastic; it comes under the 2016 program of Plastic Waste Management. It means the producer is no longer responsible for taking care of the waste plastic. In fact, according to this law, EPR Company must collect that waste plastic and dispose of it safely r recycle it for future use. In return, the plastic recycler is getting the financial benefit, and the plastic producer is earning plastic credit points and proving a good industrialist.  

How is the emergence of EPR Plastic Beneficial?

Before implementing EPR for plastic, it is tough to distinguish the waste in the name of a specific company due to poor segregation. The rack picker will collect waste in bulk, and no company would manually do the work of segregating waste. This results in losing the company’s interest in recycling and building large hips of garbage all around the place. 

The solution to this problem is plastic EPR companies. It is the dual profit scheme where the plastic recycler is responsible for collecting & processing the waste, and the plastic producer will get credit points. The responsibility of EPR can be physical, fiscal, or both. 

What are the effects of plastic EPR?  

The EPR plays a triple role; let us understand how. 

  • First is collecting waste from producer & then recycling or re-designing it to form a new product for selling in the market. 
  • The second is minimizing the waste from around us to reduce the proportion of poisonous gases & toxic chemicals from the environment and minimize the greenhouse effect. 
  • The third is meeting the consumer’s demand for recycled or environmentally hazardous free products. 
  • Fourth, knowledging citizens about the plastic recycling methods, advantages of using recycled products, and encouraging them to do so.

Plastic EPR works on regulating plastic waste, collecting ~ processing ~converting it into finished goods. But this system can only work if the basic ground rules are entirely studied before implementing the law & sufficient time is provided for the processing. Lacking any of these two factors can lead to the collapsing of the plastic EPR system.

Conclusion By far, you have read that as per the modern laws, it is the EPR’s duty for plastic waste management, and that can only be viable if two ground rules have been followed. But next to the list is PRO (producer responsibility organization). 

How to Reduce Plastic Waste?

India is one of the leading developing countries in the world and yet, it has been unable to come up with innovative solutions for its population that would help them reduce plastic waste and improve the environment at the same time. Here are some simple steps you could take at your workplace to reduce plastic waste at work:

* Store items that can be reused. Try using reusable containers instead of plastic containers to store recyclable waste. Store glass jars or milk jugs tightly so as to avoid leaking. Keep small plastic waste receptacles where employees can put their used plastics.

* Make your workspace clutter-free. Try organizing desks and cubicles according to their contents. Divide large files and photographs among several smaller ones, keeping in mind where they will be most useful. Display items that can be reused or put away in albums or drawers. You can use plastic-free bulletin boards to post work-related information. There are many ways you could reduce plastic waste at work.

* Reduce your consumption of plastic. Use cloth bags instead of plastic to collect your trash. Also, be careful when disposing of paper, cans, bottles and cups. If there is a need to discard any item, make sure that it is properly disposed of and it does not pollute the environment. Remember to recycle whenever you can.

* Recycle scrap materials. When buying things, look for the tag indicating that you can recycle them. Scrap plastic packages and cardboard tubes are often sold as scrap. There are many ways you could reduce your consumption of plastic materials. Learn how to properly recycle these materials and reduce the amount of plastic pollution that you have in your area.

* Have your garbage collected regularly. This is important if you want to reduce the amount of plastics that end up in the landfills. Many cities today encourage residents to separate trash based on the kind of plastics made from. Collect all your garbage and get it recycled.

* Recycle paper. You can start your own program that encourages citizens to recycle paper. You can start by inviting your neighbors to join a recycle day. Next, distribute flyers encouraging citizens to take care of paper and plastics by taking them to the local curbside. You could also offer different discount coupons that would help your neighbor’s shop for the same things at their local stores when they purchase paper.

* Throw away old plastics. Most manufacturers sell their products in plastic containers and it is more affordable to just throw them away than to reuse them. There are recycling programs for plastics but the government would usually only support the first ones. If you want to reduce plastic waste, you must do your part.

* Reduce your consumption of coffee, tea, soda, chocolate and other processed foods. These are all high in calories that lead to obesity. They can also cause damage to the ecosystem. It is just right to reduce plastic waste since these contain toxic chemicals that can pollute the water and air and thereby cause global warming.

* There are many ways you can reduce plastic waste. However, one of the best ways to reduce plastic waste is by changing your lifestyle. For instance, if you live in an area that experiences severe climate changes, you should invest in a rain gear that will help you reduce plastic waste. There are many ways you can do to lessen the effect of waste but most of all, just be responsible enough to others.

* You can also recycle used plastic bags and other containers that contain plastics. The most convenient way to recycle is to utilize the services of a reusable container company. This company will take your used containers and recycle it. In return, you will benefit because you will be able to reduce the waste and at the same time help save our planet.

* If you are not having any success in getting your plastics recycled, you can always turn to your local council for assistance. There are many areas where you can get the information you need. If you want to reduce plastic waste, you need to do your part and help your community become more eco-friendly. This way, we can make a big difference in saving our planet and we can all enjoy safe and clean environments.

How to Deal with the Perils of Plastic Items?

The global plastic market today is valued at a net worth of $468.3 billion as of 2020 and it is expected to grow at 6.0% CAGR between the years 2020 to 2025. As per the data derived from various sources, the production of plastic increased from 1.5 million metric tonnes in 1950 to 368 million metric tonnes in 2019. Due to such rapid expansion of the plastic industry, the perils of ineffective disposal of plastic items are ever-increasing. The perils are, however, not irreversible and can be kept under check by adopting certain measures of waste disposal. 

But before we learn more about the dangers of ineffective plastic disposal, let’s learn more about the environmental threats of such inefficiency. 

What are the Perils of Plastic Items? 

Every type of plastic comes with certain health concerns including chronic skin conditions, hormonal disruption and adverse effects on the central nervous system, and more. Since plastic is indispensably used in almost everything we see around us, the adverse effects of plastic on our health and ecosystem is inevitable. 

Challenges to Our Health 

  • Certain types of plastics like PVC and Polystyrene come with serious health hazards and therefore, their use must be minimized. 
  • Most of the plastic items used for packaging are difficult to recycle. Moreover, recycled plastic packaging includes toxic chemicals which are a greater threat to our health.  
  • Diseases like cancer, chronic inflammation, diabetes, and various immune system diseases are some of the many health impacts caused by plastic. 

Challenges to the Environment 

  • Plastic lodges inside the digestive tracks of marine animals and birds, there by causing malnutrition, slow poisoning, and intestinal blockage. 
  • Only a fraction of the plastic produced is biodegradable. Additionally, all plastics are not recyclable. Therefore, they pose a greater threat to the environment. 
  • Plastic is often burned to make more space in the landfill. However, plastic burning releases hazardous gases in the air and contributes to air and land pollution. 

Although recycling of plastic is important to ensure that the effects on health and the environment are minimized, we see that only 14% of plastic is collected for recycling. And since a major portion of plastic is left out in the environment, waste management without enforcement is difficult. 

Effective Plastic Waste Management 

Informal sectors and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) play a key role in the disposal and recycling of plastic waste. To increase the recycling rate of plastics, the ULBs need to work collaboratively with the informal sector. It is also important to educate solid waste management units in the informal sector to enhance their plastic waste management capacity via workshops. Not only do such initiatives efficiently resolve the waste management problem, but it also improves the economic and social fabric. Linking the solid waste management workers in the informal sector with government schemes for life and health insurance could be another effective way of driving these workers to work. 

Segregation of the waste at source is an important consideration that makes plastic waste management a comparatively easy affair. The waste must be sorted into three categories primarily: dry, wet and hazardous. Sorting wastes into these categories makes it easier for solid waste management workers to recover and recycle dry waste. 

The government is also liable to come up with a comprehensive strategy that prevents the generation of excessive plastic wastes. Coming up with such initiatives not only resolve the problem of waste management but also generates employment for various sections of people.  

The Government of India has laid down a certain set of rules and guidelines about solid waste management in the year 2016. Segregation at source, collection and disposal of sanitary waste, the user fee for collection, collect back scheme for packaging waste, water processing and treatment and promotion of waste to energy are some of the highlights of Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016. The Government has pushed students, NGOs and people from certain other communities to have stakes in the initiative so that the issues are managed better. Effective management of solid waste is incomprehensible without financial as well as technical support. 

Conclusion 

The government is trying to come up with massive National Action Plans that include everything from promoting domestic recycling to providing sustainable alternatives to hazardous types of plastic. Nevertheless, it is as important that we comply with the legal rules and guidelines to bring about a positive change.  

Why Is Waste Management A Challenge in India?

The problem of waste management in India is as vast as it is tricky. The country generates more than 960 million tonnes of waste each year which is inclusive of organic waste, recyclable waste, and hazardous waste. However, the collection of waste remains inadequate with less than 60% of the waste being collected, of which a mere 15% is processed. With the increase in urban population, the shortcomings owing to collection transport, and disposal of waste have been on the rise. 

There has been an increasing attempt to incorporate waste management systems that retain resources from the utilization of specialized waste processing facilities. Myriad opportunities like thermal treatment or methane extraction from landfills are yet to be discovered to facilitate effective and enhanced waste management in India. 

To understand the barriers and challenges to waste management in India, let us study waste generation, characterization, and current waste management in India. 

Waste Generation in India 

Waste generated in India grows at an average of 4% as per a study conducted in 2016. One of the major contributors to the management of solid wastes in India is the increasing population. Enhancing urbanization and geographical, climatic, and linguistic diversity are some of the other causes of waste management in India. 

The waste generated annually is a by-product of mining, industrial, agricultural, municipal, and other processes. Out of the 960 million tonnes of solid waste generated in India, 350 million tonnes are agricultural waste and 290 million tonnes of waste is inorganic, generated by the industrial sectors. Moreover, as a conclusion to a study, the annual waste generation would reach as high as 19 billion by the year 2025. Owing to the constraints with regards to effective waste management, there are various qualitative guidelines recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for the treatment and transportation of both hazardous and non-hazardous waste. 

Characterization of Waste 

The quantity of municipal solid waste generated depends on various factors like living conditions, type and extent of commercial activities, season, and eating habits. Waste generation also depends on the city and region and therefore, we can categorize various cities based on municipal solid waste generation. For instance, Maharashtra tops the list of states with the maximum MSW generation, measured in MT per day. Maharashtra is followed by West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, and Uttar Pradesh. Stats like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala generate fewer wastes MT per day as compared to the list of the state above them. The remaining states generate as much as 7682 MT of waste per day. 

Waste generated can be characterized differently between high-income groups, and lower-income groups. Due to the high standard of living of the high-income groups, they generate more inorganic waste including plastic, textiles, glass, and metals. Such wastes are particularly non-hazardous. However, hazardous wastes like paints, medicines, are also a part of municipal solid waste generated in urban spaces. In cities with well-developed healthcare infrastructure, biomedical waste like syringes, bandages, and sanitary material is another major contributor to MSW. 

The MSW (Management and Handling) Rules 2000 has mentioned a set of rules to be implemented for collection, segregation, and transportation and processing of MSW. Chandigarh has incorporated the infrastructure for the treatment of MSW effectively in a way that it has improved the management of sorganic and inorganic wastes as compared to other cities. 

Challenges in Collection of Urban Waste 

The process of waste collection in urban areas begins with the door-to-door collection of waste by the contractors employed by the government. The waste is then dumped into the landfills, following which the recyclables are segregated from the heap of mixed waste. In the process, there are various shortcomings. Some of these are listed in the points below: 

  • The contractor often dumps the waste illegally into vacant plots just to save the cost of transportation of the waste across the city. 
  • Since the contractor’s revenues depend on the MT of wastes dumped, he is incentivized to dump more waste in the landfills. This might result in the landfill having an unmanageable amount of waste which leads to the burning of waste to create more space in the landfill. 

Impact of Ineffective Waste Management 

Challenges in the collection and transportation of waste adversely affect human health. The burning of garbage is one of the root causes of asthma, emphysema, and heart attack. Decomposed garbage, when unmanaged, also attracts myriad rodents and leads to the spread of various diseases like malaria and dengue. Dump yards are also prone to accidental fires which release hazardous smoke into the air, detrimental to the cardiovascular and respiratory health of city dwellers. 

The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 specifies the guideline for effective management of waste. Waste generators have been mandated to segregate waste and bulk generators of waste are instructed to manage their waste. However, in both cases, there is no penalty for non-compliance. The set of rules also provide the directive to set up Waste to Energy Plants and levy fees on waste generators by the local bodies. 

The Concrete Truth of EPR Demystified!

A circular economy is a system where everything that is produced & given away in the environment, is taken back and rebuilt for another use. Nothing goes as ‘waste’.

Approximately 6 million tonnes of plastic waste goes un-recycled every year in our country. Half of it is single-use or use & throw plastic. A disheartening share goes disposed of in our oceans which puts India among the top 20 countries that dump maximum plastic in marine water bodies. 

This brings us to Plastic Waste Management, the only option to tackle a ticking time-bomb. In the last 20 years or so, recycling has come of age and business sector initiatives in the movement forward have been remarkable. 

Backed by the Indian government, the strategy to remanufacture plastic products once used has made its way into our legislation. The concept is known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and it focuses on increasing the amount and degree of product recovery to minimize the environmental impact of waste plastics.

What is EPR?

The Extended Producer Responsibility policy goes back 31 years ago when it was first introduced by Thomas Lindhqvist in a report to the Swedish Ministry of Environment in 1990. The report was the result of a calculative analysis done to improve the management of end-of-life products and eventually promote cleaner production. 

Soon it spread across the world and in India, EPR policy found its place in Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. However, does it detail the business model for the collection of waste and help it reach the right people who take care of its fate? Let’s see further in this article.

Liability for Producers, Importers & Brand Owners under EPR 

The objective of EPR is to encourage product manufacturers to take responsibility for their product’s life cycle and the environmental impact caused by waste plastics thus, minimizing the effects by opting for ethical ways. 

It is essentially a take-back scheme to promote the collection, recycling, and final disposal of all products. In simplest words, EPR extends the responsibility of brand owners up to the entire life cycle of the production chain – from cradle to grave.

Who recycles the plastic you generate, for you?

India has forever relied on rag pickers, kabadiwalas, or scrap dealers to meet our country’s waste collection target. This implies that most of our plastic recycling business is handled by the informal sector. Talking in numbers, it goes as high as 95%. 

What stops brands from recycling then?

Firstly, since most of the recycling in India is handled by the informal sector, the dearth of proper recycling infrastructure makes operational and locational aspects for both producers and coprocessors critical. It may not be economically viable and physically feasible for brand owners to connect with waste recyclers either individually or collectively. 

The challenge of identifying authorized recyclers is also a setback. Whether the certificate provided for recycling of the plastics they own is authentic, leaves brands often puzzled. This makes room for third-parties who try to meddle in between trying to cut their share, in turn increasing the final price. 

The dire need to formalize the plastic recycling process leads to the conceptualization of a platform where all stakeholders across the Plastic Waste Management can simply connect like a digital marketplace where you come, buy, pay & receive the relevant documentation.

How does EcoEx get to play the changemaker?

The above challenges inspire the conceptualization of EcoEx – a digital marketplace where fulfilling your EPR obligations through plastic recycling and obtaining authentic plastic credit is as simple and transparent as ordering a product from any e-commerce portal. 

Our digital marketplace gives brands an option to directly tie-up with a pool of accredited coprocessors after an easy registration process. Price discovery for a specifically weighed to-be-recycled plastic becomes transparent through online auctions. Brand owners can track and trace the details of their transactions while the threat of duplicity is addressed seriously as the system does not allow duplication of Plastic Credit Certificates in any way.

Our business model works on the government’s guidelines & the recent amendments in plastic waste management rules. Additionally, we have detailed the entire mechanism and made it more organized, integrated, and purely digital to eliminate the restrictions experienced by PIBOs earlier. 

The onus is on us.

To protect and improve the environment, more than a constitutional mandate is a commitment for a country wedded to the ideas of sustainability. Article 21 embraces the well-accepted right to live however, fulfilling EPR is a way to live in true means, in a plastic-free environment. 

While EPR has evolved as a preventive approach to tackle this problem and the rules framed under this policy are also fairly good, the onus is now on brand owners and waste recyclers to work in harmony towards the change.

“Plastic blood cells are increasing in our blood.”

In recent years, plastic-the wonder material recognized for its resilience, toughness and affordability, has become a major environmental threat. This ubiquitous environmental nature of plastic has contributed to its entry into the human body, posing a danger to human health.

With more than 400 million tons of plastic manufactured worldwide each year. 

Plastic is still an option for industries such as cosmetics, food packaging, utensils, etc. Most of the plastic waste ends up in dump yards and accumulates in water bodies as well. Several studies have shown its harmful effects on the marine environment and its presence in marine animal bodies, such as fish, molluscs, turtles, etc. Via the ingestion of fish, plastic enters the bodies of its producers, humans, closing the complete circle.

It’s a fundamental fact that the ocean has transformed into a plastic broth and plastic reaches the food chain through the fish we consume. 

While most individuals are concerned with largerplastic forms that often break down over time into small bits, there is a relatively new player: Micro-plastics.

A more serious health threat emerges from micro-plastics and nano-plastics created by physical, biological and chemical behavior of plastics. Micro and nano plastics can penetrate human bodies because of their invisible existence through the use of items containing nano-plastics, such as sugar, honey, rice, bread, pasta, milk, utensils, toothpaste, etc., other than by a consumption of seafood. 

Micro-plastics in tap and bottled water have also been detected in recent research. 

Nano-plastics are unknowingly inhaled by workers in the textile and PVC industries as well.

Though these micro plastics are everywhere, the impact of rising plastic cells on the human body still remains unknown.

Source-
https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/plastic-problem/plastic-pollution-facts/plastic-facts-figures/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/06/plastic-fibres-found-tap-water-around-world-study-reveals
https://qz.com/1644802/you-eat-5-grams-of-plastic-per-week/#:~:text=People%20across%20the%20world%20unwittingly,of%20plastic%20every%2012%20months