Indian Government gets serious about plastic waste

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Shri CK Mishra, Secretary, MoEFCC and Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, TERI, at an event at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi.
TERI and MoEFCC launches resource efficiency initiative for India.

The Indian Government, working with The Energy and Resources Institute, has announced three new waste management and resource efficiency initiatives, with a specific focus on better management of plastic waste.

Critically, it plans to focus on improving collections and processes before looking at banning materials.

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At a launch event last week, the Government of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) announced that it was working with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to set up a resource efficiency cell.

The aim of the cell is to increase focus and activity to improve both waste management and resource efficiency.

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Its role will be to make resource efficiency mainstream in public policy; drive system-based thinking on materials, products and processes; and enable the preparation of an overarching resource efficiency policy for India.

Figures announced by TERI show that India’s demand for various materials is likely to increase from $1.4 trillion in 2010 to $5 trillion in 2020.

The Institute stated that this increase makes it ‘very important’ to improve resource-use efficiency, ‘delinking economic growth and human wellbeing from ever-increasing consumption of natural resources and the resultant environmental impacts’.

A focus on plastic recycling

As part of the programme, MoEFCC secretary Shri C K Mishra released a TERI paper called Opportunities and Challenges of Plastics Waste Management.

The paper stated that the annual average per capita consumption of plastic in India is ‘about 11 kgs’.

It also found that ‘households generate maximum plastic waste, of which water and soft drink bottles form a large number’. It added that the seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the worst polluted in the world.

Furthermore, TERI figures show that India generates an estimated 32 million metric tonnes of packaging waste each year, of which plastic constitutes 16%. It stated that ‘the unorganised [sic] collection of waste leads to cherry-picking of wastes, with only 14% of plastic packaging being collected for recycling’.

In response to this The MoEFCC and TERI has developed an industry consortium which will create a supply chain to manage plastic waste.

This consortium, which comprises eight members including Aditya Birla Group, Mainetti India and DS Group of Companies, will identify the institutional and policy interventions needed to sustainably manage waste.

At the launch of the consortium, TERI director general Dr Ajay Mathur said: “Waste proofing needs both technologies and business models.

“We need to convert used plastics into hangers and buckets and into higher quality products. We also need to enable collectors and recyclers to run these as profitable enterprises.

“Banning plastic is not the solution – banning only makes sense when collection and recycling is not possible.”

EU impacts

At the launch, the European Union and MoEFCC signed a Joint Declaration of Intent to support the implementation of the EU Resource Efficiency Initiative (EU-REI) Project in India, with a specific objective to foster the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources in India.

The JDI seeks to strengthen technological, scientific and management capacities of MoEFCC, the EU and other relevant partners from private and public sector along with the implementing partners in the field of resource efficiency.

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