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Plastic bag pollution in India

   Plastic bags are highly toxic

      Plastic bags

Every year, around 500 billion (500,000,000,000) plastic bags are used worldwide. So many that over one million bags are being used every minute and they're damaging our environment. India's plastics consumption is one of the highest in the world. Yet, precious little has been done to recycle, re-use and dispose of plastic waste. Plastic bags are difficult and costly to recycle and most end up on landfill sites where they take around 300 years to photo degrade. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain when  animals accidentally ingest them. But the problems surrounding waste plastic bags starts long before they photo degrade. Plastic bags  and  plastic waste are also the biggest contributors of  Environment Pollution in India

Our planet is becoming increasingly contaminated  by Plastic pollution and by our unnecessary use of plastic carry bags. Big black bin liners, plastic carrier bags carrying advertising logos, clear sandwich bags, vegetable bags and a variety of other forms used to carry our daily food items and other items are all polluting our environment. Just take a look around you. Plastic bags can be seen hanging from the branches of trees, flying in the air on windy days, settled amongst bushes and floating on rivers. They clog up gutters and drains causing water and sewage to overflow and become the breeding grounds of germs and bacteria that cause diseases

    Animals eating plastic bags

Animals, including  the Holy Cow  and sea creatures are hurt and killed every day by discarded plastic bags - a dead turtle with a plastic bag hanging from its mouth isn't a pleasant sight but mistaking plastic bags for food is commonplace amongst marine animals. Plastic clogs their intestines and leads to slow starvation. Others become entangled in plastic bags and drown. Because plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down, every year our seas become 'home' to more and more bags that find their way there through our sewers and waterways. Given India's poor garbage collection facilities, tons of plastic bags litter the roads, preventing rainwater from seeping into the ground. Hundreds of cows die in New Delhi alone every year when they choke on plastic bags while trying to eat vegetable waste stuffed in the garbage.

  Every bag that's washed down a drain during rainfall ends up in the sea every bag that's flushed down a toilet (many mall bags are), ends up in the sea - every bag that’s blown into a river will most likely end up in the sea. Besides choking drains, plastics are highly toxics. When burned they release cancer-causing gases. Lying in the garbage, polythene bags also find their way in gut of cattle, asphyxiating the animals. The cheap bags contain chemicals such as cadmium- or lead- based chemicals that are harmful to health. They leach into vegetables, meat and food.  An estimated 15 lakh computers and 30 lakh mobile phones are disposed of every year in India.

"Computers, mobiles and other electronic items generate hazardous e-waste like lead, brominated flame retardants and chromium which can cause cancer," There is another problem: India has more to deal with than just the waste generated at home. The Environment  Protection Authority of Britain recently said 23,000 tonnes of e-waste was dumped in India, China and Pakistan. 
 The decomposition process of a non-biodegradable plastic bag takes up to 400 years and even then, they remain toxic after breaking down.

 Several Indian states banned plastic use

The central government has recently passed the ruling under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act 1986, prohibiting sale of any product in plastic carry bags. Further regulated under the recycled plastics manufacture and usage rules, 1999 (as amended in 2003) manufacture, sale and use of carry bags less than 20 micron in thickness and less than 8 x 12 inches in size are prohibited.
   Several Indian states such as Maharastra, Dehli, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himanchal Pradesh, Goa , Assam, West Bengal etc. banned their use. Mumbai's storm water drainage choking with accumulated plastics waste, making the floods unmanageable, is an old story. The Environment Ministry has banned manufacture and use of plastics carry bags less than 8 inches X 12 inches in   size 20 micron in width. The ministry has also asked State Governments to register all plastics manufacturing unit, so that these can be regulated. 

Plastic pollution in Various States have increased the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags to even higher limits of 40, 50, or 70 microns. These States/ UTs are: Goa (40 micron), Himachal Pradesh ( 70 micron; HP Cabinet decided to ban plastics in the entire State with effect from 15.08.2009), Maharashtra (50 micron), Meghalaya ( 40 micron), Punjab (30 micron), Chandigarh (30 micron), West Bengal (40 micron ), Kerala (30 micron).

 (a) The Government of Delhi issued a notification dated 21st November 2008 titled " the Delhi Degradable Plastic Bag ( Manufacturing, Sale and Usage )and Garbage (Control) (Amendment ) Act, 2008" Section 11(b0 of this notification stipulates that no person shall manufacture, stock, distribute or sell plastic begs made of virgin of recycled, degradable or non -degradable plastic bags which are less than 40 microns in thickness. Another notification issued on 7th January.

   2009 under the powers delegated to Government of Delhi by the Central Government under Section -5 of the Environment (Protection ) Act, 1986, which prohibits the use, sale and storage off all kinds of plastic bags in Five Star and Four Star Hotels, Hospitals with 100 more beds except the use of plastic bags as pres cribbed under Bio-medical Waste (management and handling) Rules, seats, all fruits and vegetable outlets selling different consumer products including fruits and vegetables.

 (b) West Bengal Pollution Control Board has banned manufacture, sale and use of plastic carry bags in ecologically fragile areas viz the entire Sunderban areas, Hilly areas of Darjeeling distinct, Sub-division, CRZ areas (Digha, Sagar, Bakkhali etc.), Forest areas and in different heritage and tourist site.

  (c) Action has been initiated for public awareness (trainings, workshops) for plastic waste management such as proper disposal of plastic bottles, banning of plastic carry bags, use of cloth/jute bags etc.

  (d) Coloured Plastic carry bags have been banned in Himachal Pradesh. Use of plastic carry begs have been banned in some districts in Mizoram /West Bengal 

  (e) Jammu and Kashmir has also banned polythene carry bags under Non Bio- Degradable Material (Management, Handling and Disposal) Act, 2007 with effect from 11.5.2009.
 (f) Government of Himachal Pradesh has taken a cabinet decision for complete bad of plastics in Himachal Pradesh under the HP Non-Biodegradable Garbage Control Act, 1995 effective from 15th August 2009. 

  Despite ban, plastic bags add to Delhi`s pile of waste

   "Delhi generates 583 metric tonnes of plastic wastes annually," said officials, adding that the plastic waste is generated mainly by plastic bags. In 2009, the Delhi government, exercising provisions of Delhi Degradable Plastic Bags (Manufacturing, Sales and Usage) and Garbage (Controlled) Act 2000, had forbidden sale, storage and use of all kinds of plastic bags in certain notified places. But as the ban failed to contain use of plastic bags, the government imposed a blanket ban on manufacture, sale, storage and use of plastic bags in November last year as per provision of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, under which violators could face imprisonment up to five years and fine of up to Rs one lakh, or both. As per industry sources, around 400 plastic bag manufacturing units are operating in the city.
  The national capital is the largest municipal solid waste producer in the country. As per government figures, Delhi generates around 7,000 tonnes of solid waste daily which includes construction rubbles. Around 600 MGD (Million Gallon Daily) sewage is generated in the city each day.The city also produces around 10 metric tonnes of bio-medical waste daily. Officials in Environment department said though they are concerned about rising solid wastes, the main reasons for worry has been increasing vehicular pollution.

   "Vehicular exhaustion is the main source of air pollution as number of  vehicles registered in Delhi has increased from Rs 24.32 lakh in 1994-95 to more than 74 lakh in March 2012," they said.

  Polythene Hatao, Paryavaran Bachao (remove polythene, save environment)

  An innovative scheme launched by Himachal Pradesh to remove polythene wastes by using these to surface roads may win the state government a national award, an official said on January 13, 2011. A central team is currently touring the state to study the implementation of the drive and, if satisfied, may nominate the state for the Prime Minister's Award for excellence in public service, said the official.

   Himachal Pradesh imposed a ban on the production, storage, use, sale and distribution of all types of polythene bags made of non-biodegradable materials Oct 2, 2009.  

   Plastic Bags a Bigger Threat to India's Future Than Nuclear Weapons

The plastic litter situation in India is so bad that, the Times of India reports, two Supreme Court justices have weighed in, saying plastic bags are a more serious threat to future generations than is posed by nuclear weapons. Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhya: All of us are watching how our lakes, ponds and urban sewerage systems are getting choked by plastic bags. We want to expand the scope of this petition. Unless we examine a total ban on plastic bags or put in place a system for manufacturers mandating them to collect back all plastic bags, the next generation will be threatened with something more serious than the atom bomb. 

   A rough estimate shows more than 100 million water pouches are thrown all over the cities and towns. For those who aren't aware, in addition to plastic bottles of water, purified drinking water is also widely available in India in small clear flexible pouches, which through a combination of lack of public awareness regarding plastic waste disposal and, in most places, a near total lack of convenient waste bins, are just tossed to the ground. 

   Plastic ban in Delhi

The health department of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), in a bid to stop the usage of plastic, has been going on a 'Say no to Plastic Bags' drive and seized a large chunk of such bags from shopkeepers.  The civic agency has also issued circulars to restaurants and other places, forbidding the use of plastic bags. 
  A Delhi city court took serious note of the environmental hazards posed by plastic bags and slapped footwear major Bata Shoe Stores with a fine of  Rs 1 lakh for using plastic bags on April 2010 In his order, Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Shailender Malik, directed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to utilise the penalty money to distribute biodegradable bags among small shopkeepers to create awareness about eco-friendly steps. The court also directed the store manager Mahmud Hasan to be present in court till its rising for the day.
  The Supreme Court has admitted the petition of Plastic Bags Manufacturers Association challenging ban on the production, distribution and use of polythene bags in Delhi on September 5, 2010. The polythene bag manufacturers had challenged the Delhi High Court order, upholding the Delhi government order dated January 7, 2009.
   "There are practical difficulties in enforcing the ban on use of plastic bags. So we are considering closing down the manufacturing units of plastic bags so that these bags are not produced at all," an official said.  Currently, around 400 plastic bag manufacturing units are operating in the city and the total yearly turnover of these units is be in the range of Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,000 crore, an industry expert said. 

  Plastic carry bag to be banned in Rajasthan from Aug 1, 2010

Plastic carry bag banned in Rajasthan  from August 1, 2010 next to protect the environment. The ban made manufacturing, storage, import, sale and transport of plastic bags illegal. Any infringement of the notification was to attract prosecution under Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act, which prescribes imprisonment for five years or a fine up to Rs 1 lakh or both. Recurrence of the offence would lead to a penalty of Rs 5,000 a day. In glaring disregard of the ban, most people were suing plastic bags.Despite blatant use of plastic bags, the penalty hasn't been imposed on a single offender in the last two years since the ban is in place.

  Innovation in Recycling Technology

Centre for Environment Education (CEE) has been awarded the "Plasticon 2005 Award" on 1st October 2005 in Mumbai by the PlastIndia Foundation in the category of Innovation in Recycling Technology'  for its innovation of a Polyloom. The polyloom is a plastic weaving handloom that helps reuse and recycling of discarded plastic bags.
  The concept of ‘polyloom' has been popularized by CEE's Waste Management Initiative as part of its mandate to address the reuse and recycling of dry waste from domestic garbage. Under this initiative, CEE has established an ‘Ecofriendly Reuse and Recycling Unit' (CEE-ERU) especially for recycling of paper scraps and plastic carry bags. In this unit, paper scrap is recycled by the hand-made paper making method while polybags are reused through the polybags weaving method.

   The plastic weaving concept is based on the fact that plastic bags which are thin and flimsy (be it 20µ or less) have an average life time of 2 to 3 hours after which they are discarded. They end up in gutters, dumpsites or on mountain sides and even in the stomachs of animals; they are responsible for clogging, choking, flooding, asphyxiation, landslides, death and destruction. Instead, if they are collected, even from roads, they can be washed, cleaned, dried, cut into strips and woven into the basic plastic textile fabric, which can then be stitched into various products like mats, folders, hand bags and purses. In this manner, both the plastic and paper waste becomes more manageable and less destructive. 

   The first CEE-ERU was first established in Coorg, Karnataka and subsequently, through various CEE offices, it has also been established in Ahmedabad, Coimbatore , Delhi , Goa , Patna and Tirupathi. Today, the concept has been taken up by many women's self-help groups who gather raw material either by door to door collection or by buying it from rag pickers. This provides them livelihood while taking away the plastic carry bags.

  Ban on use of plastics for packaging tobacco products

  The Environment Ministry on  February 7, 2011 issued a notification banning the use of plastics for packaging gutka and other tobacco products after it was pulled up by the Supreme Court for not implementing the law regulating the use of the environmentally harmful polymers. The Supreme Court of India in one of its directives also banned use of plastic sachet for pan masala from March 1 this year.(2011). 

   Maharashtra on July 10, 2012 had banned the sale of gutka and paan masala after the state cabinet approved a proposal for banning the manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of these two products. Offenders can face jail time of six months to three years. Apart from being the fourth state in India to ban gutkha, Maharashtra also became the only state in India to ban sale of pan masala.

   The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 also bans the packaging of foodstuffs in recycled plastics or compostable plastics. On February 2, the Supreme Court had refused to grant more time to the Centre for implementing the law to regulate the use of plastic for packaging tobacco products and asked it to notify that within two days. Former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, however, on February 7, 2011 said it is  impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country.

  Plastic bag ban in other countries

Several countries have already banned their use and more will doubtless follow.
  Abu Dhabi.:
   February 24 to 26, 2011 has been declared a plastic bag-free weekend in Abu Dhabi. With the nation overindulging in using 11.6 billion plastic bags every year. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW) and the full support of the emirate?s major supermarkets and shopping malls, is launching the anti-plastic bag campaign to stress the serious harm caused by this item. According to the Centre for Waste Management - Abu Dhabi, plastic makes up 19 per cent of domestic waste in Abu Dhabi city, said Dr. Jaber Al Jaberi, executive director of the EAD's  Environment Operations Sector. As a result of a government decision to phase out the use of plastic bags by 2013, major supermarkets in the country have already switched from the harmful non-biodegradable plastic bags to the ones that degrade naturally in two years.  We are currently targeting school students across the country and have distributed 10,000 jute bags to them so far,  said Dr Mariam Al Shanasy, MEW undersecretary.

China: The final version of a regulation on the compulsory sale of plastic shopping bags at retail outlets was released in Beijing on May 20, 2008. The Commerce  Ministry, National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce jointly released the regulation. 
From June 1, retailers could be fined up to 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for providing free plastic bags to shoppers. Under the new law, retailers will be free to set their own prices for the bags, as long as they are above the cost price. The plastic bags must also meet national quality standards.

   Also, markets face fines of up to 20,000 yuan if they fail to buy bags from legally incorporated producers, wholesalers or importers, or if they fail to obtain related certificates and record relevant data. It will not apply to plastic packaging for raw, prepackaged and cooked food.
  Maxico:  On August 2010 Mexico City has passed a law that bans stores from giving customers free plastic bags. The law will not be enforced for another year to buy stores time to find biodegradable options, but all businesses from bakeries to clothing stores will face potentially harsh penalties if they do not comply.

  Minimize plastic bag pollution

  The actions that can help to reduce some  plastic  pollution in our world are:

  * Recycling plastic bags  that you can recycle!
* Buy organic food, It will reduce the amount of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, artifical fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics being used in the agricultural industries.
* Buy products with biodegradable packaging such as jute bag, cotton bag, paper bag  
* Re-use your plastic shopping bags or better still don’t use plastic bags.  
* Use public transport, walk or cycle… or car share.
* Use less harmful detergents in your home. 

  Roads are paved with plastic

  A new use for waste plastic bags may be in the construction of roads. Ahmed Khan ran a plastic bag company in Bangalore and his brother decided to mix plastic with asphalt, which forms a compound called polymerised bitumen. This polymerised bitumen, Khan says, is capable of withstanding India's prolific monsoon rains far better than the pavements currently in use owing to plastic's tendency to act as a binding agent and being water resistant.
  It's also cost effective. While a road built with plastic will cost about three per cent more than a conventional road in the short term, in the long run, it will require much less repair and hence repay the higher up-front cost.own. So far, the company has laid more than 1,200 kilometres of roads using 3,500 tonnes of plastic waste, primarily in Bangalore. For every one kilometre of single-lane road, about two tonnes of plastic are needed, he explains. Of the 35 tonnes of plastic waste generated by Bangalore each day, Khan is  already using three to five tonnes daily on the roads. "Just think," he says, "how much of that waste plastic could be used if we had more of these roads."

  Plastic ban in holy places

  The Tribune reports that Tirumala's Sri Venkateswara temple, the richest Hindu in the world   with some 60,000 people visiting daily, will soon be a plastic-free zone, after the state government of Andhra Pradesh decided to ban the use of plastic products there.
  The plastic ban at the 1700-year old hill-top temple goes into effect in one month and will cover all plastic bags irrespective of size or thickness. In applications where plastic bags are currently used--distributing prasad after services, for example--cloth, paper or jute bags will be used instead. The temple canteens at Sri Venkateswara and others managed by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams had already stopped using plastic cups for serving tea and water, replacing them with paper cups or reusable glasses.   The move accompanies one by the state government banning plastic bags below 40 microns thickness across the state, in the same time frame. Currently plastic bags below 20 microns are banned. 

   Invention turns plastic bags back into oil

  Akinori Ito a Japanese inventor has invented a device that will turn ordinary plastic shopping bags into gasoline, reports the website Clean Technica. Ito's device came from a simple idea: Plastic bags are made out of oil, so there should be a way to change them back and recapture the energy inside them.

   The device melts plastic bags, filters and cools the vapors, then condenses them back into crude oil, which can be used as fuel. An additional step turns the crude oil into gasoline, providing an even more versatile energy source.
  Clean Technica reports that Ito's invention uses remarkably little energy to complete this process. Two pounds of plastic bags can be converted into a quart of oil using a single kilowatt of power. According to the Environmental Literacy Council, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year. That's a lot of oil that could be reclaimed if devices like this caught on. 

   Ito envisions the device being used in homes, and in fact, you can buy it from his own Blest Co. Ltd., but the $10,000 price tag might give you pause. But don't worry: Clean Technica reports that Ito hopes to bring prices down if he can increase production and lower his manufacturing costs.

    Machine turns plastic bags back into oil Video



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