Private Players Already Engaged In Recycling And Minimizing Plastic Use
GUWAHATI: While the whole of Guwahati is dependent on plastic for every little thing it is time to minimise its use as the government of India has initiated an action plan to have single-use plastic-mukt Bharat by 2022.
An initial move to implement a ban was revoked by various stakeholders who use plastics for packaging from sodas and biscuits to shampoo and ketchup. Therefore, as is the case, a full ban doesn’t seem plausible. Now, the most talked about topic is now how effective this new measure will be.
Laymen might be wondering how to use plastic in a productive way. But those who have the passion to work for the betterment of society are already silently working on it. GK Plastics (an industrial entity dabbling in plastic production) headed by one Archana Kalita for example, has been trying to recycle waste plastic that is of no consumable use. GK Plastics collect plastic materials like bottles from kabadiwalas or rag pickers. A grinding machine is used to grind the collected plastic. These plastics are washed, then stocking is done and after cutting, drying and packing it gets delivered to the contractors or other agencies which use them in the construction of roads.
A team member of GK Plastics shared valuable information about the scientific use of plastic in road construction. He said that according to PWD standard norm, 10 tonne bitumen is used for the construction of 1 km road. But if the recycled plastic is used with this bitumen, only 8 tonnes is needed as it can be mixed with 2 tonnes of plastic. This not only cuts down the cost of construction, but also gives more durability to the roads. It can save the roads from getting damaged after too much rain.
He further added that the use of tar adds to the wear and tear of the roads as it can’t withstand severe heat. In India, 11 states have already started this project; Assam is not using its resources as a result of which it is unable to tap the profit-making businesses the way it should have been done by now. The main problem in achieving the target is the collection of waste plastic. The rag pickers usually collect plastics but these are sent out of the state. So, Assam is not capitalizing on this and its reserves are basically misused. He also advised that grinding machines can be sold to the SHGs and Gram Panchayats which can apply this method and recycle plastic.
According to the environment ministry, about 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day in the country. Of this, only 13,000-14,000 tonnes are collected. In this respect, the initiative of GK Plastics seems praiseworthy. There are a few other projects taken up by some individuals who have collaborated with big companies like Tata Steel. EgyNest is such a company. They have involved themselves in pet bottle recycling by using polycrack technology which converts the non-segregated feed stocks into materials which leave no residue after it is burnt.
Prior to the government’s move on minimising use of plastic, a few NGOs were already trying to do their bit in this regard. The founder member of an NGO, Voice of Environment, said that they had to face lot of problems in making the Kamakhya Temple premises a clean and unpolluted zone for the visitors. The vendors at Kamakhya Temple expressed their displeasure on being urged to stop using plastics as they reported that the devotees who throng Kamakhya Temple prefer the Prasad to be wrapped in poly bags.
Plastic experts extol the virtues of the material
Sanjay Sikaria from Plastic Federation of India mentioned a few good usages of plastics. Plastic is used in ball point pens, mouse for computers, motor parts, etc. According to him it is not feasible to put a complete ban on plastics. Some of the alternatives that people have thought about for plastic are jute bags, cotton bags and polypropylene ‘green’ bag. But even there the question that arises is how effective it is going to be keeping in mind the cost these involve. The costs of such bags can be as high as Rs 200 to Rs 500, which many people might not be able to afford. It is said that Assam is a storehouse of bamboo but the bamboo products made for protecting the environment are very expensive.
He also pointed out that there is no clarity whether the ban is on or it has been shelved. On October 2, the district administration of North Guwahati held a programme on plastic ban. The Executive member of the Town committee, who is also the Assistant Commissioner, Shehnab Shahin, said that she had imposed Section 144 on those who consume single use plastic. But it is not clear if the administration can still carry out this measure.
There are a few other alternatives which might not be as costly as those mentioned earlier, like mesh produce bags, greenlight matches, reusable grocery bags, disposable wooden cutlery, wood hangers, compostable garbage bags, bamboo cutting board, etc.