Plastics ban develops in India
New rules in India have banned the use of plastic sachets for storing and selling food and tobacco products, and both recycled and compostable bags used for carrying foodstuffs have also been banned.
The new Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011 have not entirely banned recycled plastic bags, but in addition to their restrictions on carrying food items, they must conform to a number of other rules laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards, one of which states: 'The plastic carrying bags shall either be white or only with those pigments and colourants which are in conformity with the bar prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards'. Bags should also be no less than 40 microns in thickness, double the thickness required under previous rules. Officials hope the new rules will achieve a thickness uniformity throughout the country.
However, a ministry official has expressed concern over the regulation of the new requirements, commenting that: ''Most municipal corporations and state pollution control boards do not have manpower or will to implement environment regulations. We will have to wait and watch what happens to plastic rules.'' Indeed, the implementation of similar rules for other streams such as electronic waste has gone relatively unheeded.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, however, says that the country's waste focus should shift to the underlying infrastructure, rather than rules and regulations. ''It is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country,'' he said. ''The real challenge is to improve municipal solid waste management systems.''
Crucially, the new rule recognises the important role of the country's waste pickers for the first time, and calls municipal bodies to engage them better in the efficient handling of plastic waste.
In partnership with multi-national corporations like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, municipal bodies are being asked to set up collection centres to help and support waste pickers.
''We must be sensitive to the needs and concerns of people involved in the informal sector,'' Ramesh said.