Guwahati generates 37,000 kgs plastic waste daily
GUWAHATI: Guwahati generates 37,000 kgs of plastic waste every day - about 12.37 percent of the entire state’s production, a report published on the eve of World Environment Day, celebrated annually on June 5, revealed.
According to the report, compiled coinciding with the theme of this year’s environment day, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” by a Guwahati-based NGO called Environ, Assam produces 2.99 lakh kgs of plastic waste every day.
This means that the city will generate about 13,505 tonnes of plastic waste this year. This has increased almost seven times over the last 14 years from 1,825 tonnes in 2014.
President of Environ, Amarjyoti Kashyap, said that the quantity of plastic waste generated in the city per day is increasing at an “alarming” rate.
Giving a break-up, he said plastic wastes constitute 9,500 kgs of polythene carry bags, 8,500 kgs of packaging materials, 3,300 kgs of polythene sheets or wrappers, 7,000 plastic bottles, 1,700 kgs of plastic glasses, 4,000 kgs of disposable syringes and other medical wastes and 3,000 kgs of other plastic items.
He said the generation of plastic waste in 2004 was around 5,000 kgs per day in the city and 50,000 kgs per day in the entire state. By the next ten years in 2014, this had increased three times to 22,000 kgs per day in the city and 1,48,000 kgs per day in the state.
“The waste disposal has increased more than twice over the last four years till today. This is more alarming as Guwahati consists of only 0.42 percent of the state’s land cover but is already contributing up to 12 percent of the total plastic generation in the state per day,” Kashyap said.
The city’s contribution to the state’s plastic pollution has also increased considerably from 10 percent in 2004 to 12.37 percent in 2018.
Kashyap said that according to their study, non-recyclable plastic is creating problems as it remains uncollected and scattered, causing damage to the environment.
Of the total plastic waste generated in the state, 60 percent is recyclable and 40 percent is non-recyclable.
“Non-recyclable plastic is a bigger evil than recyclable plastic and mainly responsible for pollution. Even rag pickers don't collect non-recyclable plastic. Therefore, it gets mixed with biodegradable waste and hampers the process of decomposition,” he said.
Non-recyclable plastic ends up in landfills or as litter on land, in water bodies and in rivers.
The most prevalent non-recyclable plastics here are multi-layered and laminated thermoplastics and thermoset plastics like pouches and packages for potato chips, biscuits, snacks, spices, noodles, chocolate, paan masala, shampoo, detergent, lubricants and fruit juice.
“The present practice of mixing plastic wastes with biodegradable solid waste is ruining the solid waste management system and creating large tracts of wasteland and toxic land. To mitigate plastic pollution, Environ is introducing household plastic craft, especially among housewives to produce decorative and household utensils like chair backs, mattresses, table mats, table tops, garlands and plastic bags, among others, by using the plastic waste at the source itself,” he said.
Lack of sewerage system hinders plastic recycling
Due to the lack of a sewerage system in Guwahati dedicated to cater to garbage that also contains plastic, most of the plastic wastes that otherwise could be recycled, get wasted.
According to the report published by Environ, of the total plastic wastes generated, at least 60 percent consists of recyclable plastics. This means that at least 22,200 kgs of the 37,000 kg waste generated daily can actually be recycled.
“The city, however, is currently dependent on the rag pickers only who hardly collect 10-20 percent of the daily wastes, while the rest 40-50 percent of the wastes still lies around, harming the environment,” Amarjyoti Kashyap, president of Environ, the NGO that has conducted the survey, said.
He said that at least 50 percent of the total plastic wastes can be recycled had there been a proper sewerage system.
Besides two minor sewage treatment plants, one of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) at Noonmati and the other of Northeast Frontier Railway at Maligaon, Guwahati currently does not have a sewage treatment plant, nor a sewerage system. Untreated sewage currently finds its way into the Brahmaputra River and the water body Deepor Beel through the natural stormwater drains such as Bharalu, Bahini, Basistha etc.
The on-going Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) funded sewerage system that is being constructed parallel to the South Central Guwahati Water Supply project, has hit logjam over an accusation of land for setting up of the sewage system plant.
Talking about the functioning of the sewerage system and its probable date of completion, S Venkatesan, managing director of Guwahati Metropolitan Water & Sewage Board, under the Guwahati Jal Board that is looking after the completion of the project said, “Along with the water pipelines, the underground sewerage lines have also been set up. These will carry the sewerage from the houses to the sewage treatment plant. There, the recyclable waste, the compost producing wastes and non-recyclable wastes will be segregated. Once segregation is done, the water will be much purer and can be released into the Brahmaputra. The recyclable wastes, on the other hand, will be handed over to the recycling plants, while with the composts, manures will be produced and the non-recyclable wastes will be dumped at the Bora Gaon dumping ground.”
“Once this system is set up, it will bring down the quantity of waste being dumped considerably,” Venkatesan said.
However, Venkatesan said, “There is no land available to set up the sewage treatment plant as it requires at least 21 bighas of land on the outskirts of the city. We have allocated a large piece of land near the Deepor Beel, but that has already been encroached upon. So, we are trying to set up small units near that area. We have sent the proposal, and are awaiting the green signal from the state government,” he added.