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Public Account Committee Report on Plastic Waste Pollution

Why is it in the news?

  • The Public Account Committee (PAC) recently presented a report on the issue of plastic waste pollution in the Parliament during the budget session.

Key highlights of the Report

  • The report highlights a significant increase in the generation of plastic waste, from 15.9 lakh tonnes per annum (TPA) in 2015-16 to a staggering 41.2 lakh TPA in 2020-21.
  • Despite the escalating volume of plastic waste, the country’s waste management infrastructure remains inadequate. According to data from 2019-20, approximately 50% of the total plastic waste generated in India, amounting to 34.7 lakh TPA, remains unutilized. This leads to pollution of air, water, and soil, posing grave health risks to both humans and wildlife.
  • The report highlights a significant data gap in the monitoring and management of plastic waste. Many state pollution control boards (SPCBs) failed to provide data on plastic waste generation to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the period 2016-18.
  • Moreover, inconsistencies in data shared by urban local bodies (ULBs) further hinder accurate assessment and effective management of plastic waste.

Criticisms and Suggestions

  • The PAC expressed disappointment with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) over its handling of the plastic waste issue. It emphasized the need for more proactive measures to address this environmental challenge effectively.
  • Recognizing the importance of accurate data in addressing plastic waste pollution, the panel underscored the necessity of developing a reliable assessment method to determine the precise amount of plastic waste being generated. This, the committee argues, should be the first step towards formulating effective management strategies.
  • The committee recommended the implementation of mandatory reporting of plastic waste data online through a national dashboard.
  • The report advocates for the formulation of a comprehensive policy framework to tackle pollution caused by plastics effectively.
  • To facilitate the transition away from single-use plastics, the committee stressed the importance of investing in research and development (R&D) initiatives aimed at finding cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternatives to plastic.

Government Initiatives

  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of certain single-use plastic items.
  • A ban on hard-to-collect/recycle single-use plastic items, effective from July 1, 2022.
  • Prohibition on plastic carry bags thinner than 120 microns, enforced since December 31, 2022.
  • The National Policy on Solid Waste Management, 2016, which emphasizes waste minimization, source segregation, and scientific processing, including plastic waste.
  • The notification of extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules to streamline the collection and recycling of plastic waste.
  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which promotes waste segregation, composting, and the establishment of waste processing facilities.

Way Forward

  • Addressing plastic waste pollution necessitates collaboration between government, industry, civil society, and individuals, along with effective implementation of regulations and adoption of technological advancements.
  • Transitioning towards a circular economy is essential for achieving a cleaner and healthier environment by minimizing waste and promoting recycling.

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