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NITI Aayog Report on Alternative Products and Technologies to Plastic

 

Alternative Products and Technologies to Plastic: Relevance

  • GS 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Plastic ban in India: Context

  • Recently, NITI Aayog has released a new report titled,’ Alternative Products and Technologies to Plastics and their applications.

 

What is a Single Use Plastic (SUP)?

  • Single-use plastics (SUP), often referred to as disposable plastics, are commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once before being thrown away or recycled.
  • They are non-biodegradable and harm our health, wildlife, and the environment.
  • They take years to disintegrate and further break down into smaller pieces of plastics known as microplastics contaminating food and water, including oceans.

 

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Plastic industry in India

  • The plastics industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in India.
  • Plastic consumption has grown by almost 20 times since it was introduced in 1945.
  • The plastics industry is one of the biggest generators of employment in the country, valued to be around INR 5.1 lakh crore (USD 73 billion).
  • There are over 30,000 units that produce plastic materials in India. Approximately 90% of these units are small and medium-sized enterprises.

 

Plastic waste in India

  • Approximately 4 million tons per annum of plastic waste was generated in India in 2019-20 while the per capita waste generation trend for the last five years (2016-20) has almost doubled over the previous five years.
  • Goa, Delhi & Kerala have reported the highest per capita plastic waste generation, while Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura have reported the lowest per capita plastic waste generation.

 

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Plastic impact on climate

  • The life of plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted at
    each stage of the plastic lifecycle:

    • fossil fuel extraction and transport,
    • plastic refining and manufacture,
    • managing plastic waste, and
    • ongoing effects within oceans, waterways, and various ecosystem landscapes
  • According to CIEL report, at current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C degrees.
  • If plastic production and use grow as currently planned, by 2030, these emissions could reach 1.34 gigatons per year, equivalent to the emissions released by more than 295 new 500-megawatt coal-
    fired power plants.
  • By 2050, the cumulation of these greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach over 56 gigatons, or 10 – 13% per cent of the entire remaining carbon budget.

 

Alternatives to plastics

  • Bio-plastics: It encompass many materials that are either bio-sourced or biodegradable or both and are made from renewable biomass resources, most often corn starch/ sugarcane/ cassava – which might be either biodegradable or not.
  • Biodegradable plastic: It means that plastics, other than compostable plastics, which undergo complete degradation by biological processes under ambient environmental (terrestrial or in water) conditions, in specified time periods, without leaving any micro plastics, or visible, distinguishable or toxic residue, which has adverse environment impacts, adhering to laid down standards of BIS and certified by CPCB.
  • Compostable plastics: It mean plastics that undergo degradation by biological processes during composting to yield CO2 , water, inorganic compounds and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials, and do not leave visible, distinguishable or toxic residue. These can be plant- based, but can also be petroleum-based as well.
  • Oxo-degradable/ oxydegradable/ oxo-biodegradable plastics: These are conventional plastics such as PE, which include an additive to help them break down into smaller fragments, which could lead to microplastic leakage in the environment.

 

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