Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) made it clear to the plastic manufacturers in the city that they have to go by the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, that bans plastic below 40 microns. Producers seem to agree, however they think enforcing the rule by the BBMP is the biggest problem.
BBMP Joint Commissioner for Health Yatish Kumar instructed the plastic manufacturers to provide details of the quantity of plastic they are generating, so that they can provide BBMP some percentage of their turnover to manage the waste, as part of Extended Producer Responsibility.
The meeting between BBMP Health Department officials and plastic manufacturers on December 12th, Friday, in IPP Centre, Malleswaram, was a direct response to the Supreme Court’s direction to BBMP. Hearing the writ petition filed by Karuna Society for Animals and Nature on Thursday, the SC asked BBMP and other local governments why they were not enforcing the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011. The Supreme court has handed over the case to the newly formed Social Justice Bench.
Why is BBMP talking to plastic manufacturers?
The Supreme Court summoned officials from Bangalore responsible for plastic management, while hearing the PIL (WC 154/2012) filed by Karuna Society for Animals and Nature, after they recovered 70 kgs of plastic from a dead cow’s stomach in a surgery.
T K Anil Kumar, IAS, Secretary, Urban Development Department, Government of Karnataka, and KC Yathish Kumar, Joint Commissioner, SWM, BBMP, Bangalore, attended the hearing that took place in Supreme Court on December 10, 2014. The Supreme Court instructed them to implement the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011.
The Rule specifies that “No person shall manufacture, stock, distribute or sell any carry bag made of virgin or recycled or compostable plastic, which is less than 40 microns in thickness.” Another term states that “No carry bags will be made available free of cost to the consumers by the retailers. The concerned municipal authority may determine the minimum price of the carry bags.”
The rules put the onus of handling and managing plastic waste exclusively on Municipalities. However, they also talk about Extended Producers’ Responsibility, where the manufacturers of carry bags and brands that use such carry bags are held accountable partly for the safe disposal of plastic.
The rule says that “For setting up plastic waste collection centres, the municipal authority may ask manufactures, either collectively or individually in line with the principle of Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR) to provide the required finance to establish such collection centre.”
The Rule came into effect in Bengaluru in March 2011. Three-and-a-half-years later, the city’s garbage dumps are still full of plastic below 40 micron. BBMP is conducting raids now and then, on retailers and manufacturers who sell plastic carry bags below 40 micron. However the magnitude of the problem is huge for BBMP to tackle. without self-regulation by the manufacturers.
While most manufacturers seem to be okay with helping BBMP in tackling the problem, BBMP seems to be keen on collecting the data related to production and turnover, which may or may not solve the problem, unless the system of garbage collection and disposal falls in line.
The Friday’s meeting was called by the BBMP to discuss Extended Producers Responsibility, however no formal agreement was reached except that BBMP asked them to provide data.
Manufacturers support the 2011 rule
Plastic manufacturers and association representatives who were present in the meeting unanimously supported BBMP’s resolve to enforce the existing ban on carry bags below 40 micron strictly.
Vijayakumar, President of Karnataka Plastic Manufacturers Association, said that extended producers’ responsibility (EPR) lies also with the departmental stores who purchase the plastic below 40 micron. He recalled the demonstration of a plastic-grinding machine two years ago by Plastic Manufacturers’ Association in Freedom Park, when Siddaiah was the commissioner and Jagadish Shettar was the chief minister.
Why not plastic below 40 micron?
- Plastic of less thickness is difficult to collect and store separately. This is not considered economic, as this is usually distributed free in retail stores and has no value.
- In Bengaluru, such plastic is used mostly for garbage packing. This is most unhealthy practice, as the plastic is not biodegradable, but has biodegradable material, which ultimately leads to rotting of the garbage inside and developing of pathogens, as days pass. This prevents scientific disposal of waste.
- Lightweight plastic can fly and move around, can choke the drains, trap birds and kill livestock.
The plan was to compress the segregated plastic in the machine, which would later be purchased by plastic recyclers. However, Vijayakumar said, no ward-level officers from BBMP came forward to install this machine that needed just a 6X6 feet space in every ward and cost around Rs 3 lakh. Several letters were written to everyone from the chief minister onward, but nothing moved forward, he rued, complaining that the plastic manufacturers were ready to support this initiative with free machines for demonstration.
He stressed that the plastic manufacturers still stand by this proposal. Vijaykumar said that plastic carry bags thinner than 40 micron are hidden under flower or vegetables in the transport vehicle and come to KR Market, from where they are dispatched to various other places. An early morning visit to KR Market area will reveal all this, he added.
Another plastic manufacturer, Chandra Mohan agreed that there were blacksheeps, however, and exposing them could attract threats to life. He added that he had faced such situations in the past.
Rules meant only for carry bags
While contending that controlling manufacturing and sale of plastic carry bags below 40 microns is easy if the plastic waste handling rules are implemented by the BBMP, the manufacturers did not seem keen to flag the BBMP about the persons manufacturing such plastic.
Some manufacturers seemed upset that BBMP raids were completely out of the blue. They expressed their anguish by saying that some officials storm into the office without even removing their footwears.
When BBMP officials said all the manufacturers have to give a written submission that no plastic below 40 microns is manufactured in their unit, after which the BBMP will not raid them without notice, all manufacturers jumped at the offer.
The plastic manufacturers were also seen discussing among themselves whether the rule applies only to carry bags or all plastic below 40 microns. Some claimed that it is only carry bags, while other products such as industrial packaging material and table rolls which are also below 40 microns are allowed to be manufactured upon order by the consumer companies.
‘Plastic below 40 micron recyclable’
Vijayakumar pointed out that PVC flex sheets used in the city for hoardings and banners are not recyclable; They come to India from China as they are banned in China due to the dioxin emitted by them. They do more harm than plastic below 40 micron, he argued. Plastic manufacturers also showed the carry bag prepared from non-woven fabric, and said it was not biodegradable as the material used was synthetic. They claimed this would cause more damage than plastic below 40 microns.
Yet another manufacturer pointed that it is not environment-friendly to use paper bags, as papers require tree-cutting. He urged the BBMP to implement the Solid Waste Management rules 2011 with respect to carry bags.
Mahantesh, the President of Peenya Plastic Manufacturers’ Association, said that it was possible to recycle the plastic below 40 microns. He was supported by all other manufacturers. They said some of the plastic below 40 micron contains 80% of calcium and 20% of polyethylene.
Secret behind plastic carry bags below 40 micron
A plastic manufacturer who did not want to be named, runs many carry bag-producing units at the heart of the city. He claims that everything is not as rosy as BBMP claims it to be. According to him,
- The BBMP officials regularly raid the plastic manufacturing units, and take away all types of plastic—plastic cups, plates and all other types of items, not just carry bags.
- Nobody knows what happens to the seized plastic, most of the times.
- The owners of many such units have an unwritten agreement with the raiding officials, where some bribe exchanges hands, and raids and cases go unrecorded by the officials.
This particular manufacturer feels that unless the BBMP officials become honest and commit themselves to the cause, the production of plastic carry bags below 40 micron will continue.
Ashwath Narayana Rao, Secretary of Peenya Plastic Manufacturers’ Association, appealed the BBMP to spread awareness about segregation at source, so that they can collect the used plastic of all grades. Every plastic is recyclable and has its own use, he added. One of the uses that was suggested was to add it in the asphalt mix for roads.
Savitha, Senior Health Officer of BBMP East Zone, seemingly irked by the plastic manufacturers’ suggestion on raids and strict implementation, clarified that the meeting was about discussing Extended Producers’ Responsibility of plastic manufacturers and getting the required data. Manufacturers need to provide the data on the quantity and grade of plastic produced and cooperate with the government on implementation, said Yatish Kumar.
Yatish Kumar asked the plastic manufacturers to provide the list of all manufacturing units operating in Bengaluru city and the list of recyclers. He appealed them to alert him about units that produce plastic below 40 microns.
Vijaykumar argued that EPR also includes the purchaser of the product who buys the carry bags from plastic manufacturers. The BBMP panel present in the meeting heard all suggestions and took note. The meeting dispersed after all the manufacturers were provided a format to fill in the quantity of plastic of all grades produced.
Later in a conversation with Citizen Matters, Yatish Kumar said that world over thin plastic (of low micron) is banned, and implementing the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 was the only way out to manage plastic properly.
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