More often than not, we look for gaps to address issues that require fully informed decisions. In my opinion, the proposed blanket ban on plastic, is not entirely thought through and is a result of lack of proper comprehension of the subject. The real problem with plastics is its littering, which can be dealt with a cost-effective and mass-level waste management system.
I think that a ban will result in killing a clear plastic such as Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), which is an indispensable part of your everyday life – not confined to bottles for drinking water, but extending to containers for medicines, beverages, food items, to clothes and carpets.
It is important to note that PET is 100% recyclable, doesn’t contain any heavy metals, Bisphenol-A (BPA) or any other carcinogenic chemical, and hence doesn’t leach out on contact with food or medicines. PET has been termed as ‘safe’ for food and beverage use by health and regulatory agencies such as Health Canada, and the EU’s European Food Safety Authority.
Instead of banning PET, the country needs to adopt stringent, low-cost and executable waste management processes like incentivized reverse recycling, a solution successfully adopted across the US, UK and Singapore. As per a report by the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, more than 70% of PET bottles get recycled through the organised sector in the country. The annual PET recycling business in India is estimated at ₹ 3,500 crore.
We also need to understand that advocating the use of glass as an alternative to PET bottles will cause more harm than good to the environment. This is largely because production of glass bottles needs huge amount of sand and energy, thus hazardously impacting the ecosystem and depleting the country of natural resources. On the other hand, PET manufacturing is uncomplicated as it is manufactured at 275°C, using safe petrochemicals.
Since glass is heavy it also requires more truck-trips to transport it, thus causing air pollution and increase in the traffic load. Elderly people and children will find carrying glass bottles very inconvenient.
Lastly, glass is also costly and fragile, causing injuries.
Regardless of the material – glass, plastic or metal – the citizens of this country will continue to litter. Therefore, we need to encourage a behavioral change by educating people about the environmental hazards of littering. If people don’t start recycling, keeping our environment clean would remain a distant dream.
Nevertheless, PET has had to face a lot of flak, with negative comments being doled out, thus confusing people about its usage. A blanket ban certainly will not help resolve things, let alone dealing with littering, and the lack of knowledge about plastic.
Truth be told – the government needs to put in place a fully functioning waste management system to ensure that our environment stays litter-free, particularly when we are handling large quantities of plastic, glass, or any other material that can be easily disposed.
Modern age requires modified social habits to deal with useful materials like PET.