In a pragmatic acknowledgement of the futility of an outright ban, as state authorities in Maharashtra have opted for a much more practical solution. Consumers in the state buying milk in polypacks , besides packaged drinks in glass or PET bottles will have to pay an additional deposit at the time of purchase.
Mandated to be a minimum of 50 paise for bags and Rs 1 for bottles, the deposit can be recovered on return of the bag/bottle to the retailer. While milk distributors, retailers and distributors have to compulsorily buy back these packs, the government is also moving to make it mandatory for the producers and distributors to make recycling an integral art of their business.
This move is truly progressive, even if being seen as a trial for three months, post which the government might move to ban the packaging option itself.
For one, it attacks the biggest challenge with plastics. While they perform a critical role in ensuring effective distribution, preservation and delivery of essentials, the issue with plastics has always been one of recycling. With trash being collected by weight in India, placing a high value on the bags will incentivize trash collectors as well as consumers themselves to recycle more effectively. Thus, even as recycling rates on PET bottles are as high as 85% in pockets of the country, the polythene bags used in plastics are not collected at all due to their weight. Mandating a minimum thickness of 50 micros, as most states have done on paper was supposed to take care of the issue of clogging and more they cause in drains.
A quick fact check for readers rushing to do the ‘right’ thing and moving to paper bags. Plastics, unfortunately remain the most effective way to sustainable living. As this study done by the Danish Environment Protection Agency posits that after considering all factors, you would need to reuse a cotton bag over 7100 times to benefit the environment, while a per bag would need to be reused 43 times.
Carrier bag alternatives considered for this LCA study and number of bags required to fulfill the functionality provided by an LDPE carrier bag with average characteristics.
Published on: Mar 20, 2018