Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Swacch Bharat…cleaning campaign Plastics and other packaging materials

Dr A K Ramdas

Regular readers of City Kemp are well aware of the cleaning campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the impact that it has had so far on the society. State Governments, through Municipalities, have also supported this move and clearance and proper disposal of garbage, both wet and dry, have been making progress, though not in the scale that was expected.
It is in this connection I would like to share how, in addition to our taking extra efforts to separate wet and dry garbage, and delivering the same to BBMP, we can improve the situation further.
Spare a few minutes to list out the number of packages of various grocery items that we open once in a few days, be it a kilo of salt or multigrain flour or for that matter a kilo of tur, moong or any other dal (pulses) that we use every day in our kitchen? In fact, today, almost everything comes in packaged form, unless we buy something “loose” from the corner kirana shop!
It is gratifying to know that the State Government of Karnataka has taken the lead in introducing the Order, officially, for banning (a) plastic carry bags of all microns (b) polypropylene bags (c) plastic produce bags, (d) disposable plastic cutlery, styrofoam plates and cups,bowls, paper plates with plastic lining, disposable plastic cups (e) black garbage bags (f) plastic liners used while serving street food (g) plastic, aluminium-plastic (polyolefin) pouches for food parcels (h) polyolefin gift wrapper (i) plastic flags, flex banners and (j) microbeads. While Government order is being enforced from time to time by surprise inspections and fines imposed on the establishments that violates the Order, a lot more needs to be done.
You and me, as responsible citizens can make some more contribution to the efforts already in place. Modified and improved methods of our garbage disposal from home is the first major step in this direction.
The second actually concerns the hundreds of packages of various consumer goods that we buy every day and dispose them….er…wrongly! A bag chips or a packet of biscuits that we consume and throw away in the dust bin are all made from the list of above mentioned banned items!
The biggest stumbling block in proper disposal of these packaging materials actually starts with the manufacturers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods, such as Britannia Biscuits, ITC, Patanjali, MTR, Hindustan Lever, Parle Biscuits, to name a few leading manufacturers. In addition to these consumer goods suppliers, there are a whole lot of household cleaning items that we use, such as Harpic, Lizol and other similar products. We should not overlook that all the cooking oils too come in various plastic/pp containers. And, let’s not forget the bottled water that we buy, and note, though, often we do not practice what the manufacturer says: “please CRUSH the bottle beforedisposal”… In fact, this list is endless.
Let’s now examine what each one of us can do to make this campaign a little more successful than it it is today. I took up the matter with several leading manufacturers of various items that we all use on a day to day basis. I wrote to the Managing Director or the Marketing Director of a number of companies, who come under the category of FMCG and sought their views as to how they plan to support the Swacch Campaign launched by the Prime Minister. The response, to say the least, has been most unsatisfactory.
If we look at this issue dispassionately, both the consumer and the manufacturer are jointly responsible. As consumers, we need to take certain steps to ensure that we learn to dispose off these packages in a suitable fashion. Take any package that you can lay your hands on, at home. Chances are that the package will have two important icons printed on them, such as : “keep you city clean” or “recycle”.
All we do is either throw this pouch/bag in the dry waste or use them to fill some disposable rubbish or garbage from home and leave it for being collected by BBMP. More often than not, we may find that these bags are floating in the air or found dumped on the road side, here and there!
In case of heavier items like plastic/polythene/pp bottles in which cooking oil is supplied, again, we leave them for collection by the same garbage trucks that come by on the appointed dates. Likewise, in case of cleaning items like Harpic, Lizol etc, disposal method is similar. On actual verification by talking to the BBMP collection crew, I came to know that they individually collect these and recycle the scrap by selling the same to some buyers. This means that some sort of recycling is taking place but not in a methodical or large scale. In any case, I took up the matter by writing directly to a number of manufacturers/suppliers whose names appeared on these packages. These include Ruchi Soya Industries; MTR Foods Pvt Ltd; ITC (re Aashirwad), Narendrakumar & Co (Everest Products), Hindustan Lever/Unilever (Knorr products), Sri Bhagyalakshmi Poha Industries, Cothas Coffee and Rickitt Benckiser India (Harpic etc). Only three responded such as Everest, ITC and Unilever but a lot more needs to be done.
In the meantime, reference has also been made that FSSAI (the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, who issue the licenses for these packaged goods (foods) should take steps to direct these FMCG companies to either set up collection centres for getting these bags/pouches etc for recycling or have a scrap coverter to install boxes in all distribution points so that these materials do not spoil the environment!
If you agree with these views, please spare a few minutes to write to the manufacturer your views and urge them to set up recycle centres and collection points!
(The writer is a resident of Koramangala 6th Block)

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