Cash for Trash this Festive Season
In the last few years, the most awaited event for many Indians, second only to the IPL, are the festive season sales online which start shortly. I am sure most of us are building up our wishlists / carts on e-commerce sites with everything under the sun we may or may not need. After all, who doesn’t like a “deal”. So while we will await the arrivals of our packages over the next few weeks, we will also welcome loads of plastic, paper packaging, oversized cartons which we will mindlessly dump in the garbage. I live in the “maximum” city which unfortunately has made minimum effort to tackle the disposal of plastic and other recyclable waste.
Ofcourse the Maharashtra government way back in 2018 had issued a notification banning manufacture, sale and use of single-use plastic bags. It also banned an array of plastic products including cutlery, straws and containers. The ban imposed a penalty between ₹5,000 and ₹25,000 for those violating the rules. After the initial success — or should I say modified behaviour out of compulsion — lo and behold, plastic was back in our lives within a year. Persuasive housewives, convincing the street vendor that, “Bhaiya BMC ka aadmi abhi market mein nahin hai” and getting him to pull out some plastic bags nicely tucked into his pockets, to takeaway containers at restaurants surfacing once again, plastic waste seems to have increased once again to pre-ban levels. Some people attribute the slow implementation to two elections that took place in 2019. To my mind, this was designed/ destined to fail. At the ground level, with no effort being made to convince the populace to change their shopping style, to make them aware, and more importantly internalise the benefits of reducing plastic usage, how do you expect this to work?
The government also around the same time embarked on the waste segregation drive, which was successful in the first few months. But again, failed at implementation level — no incentives to societies or even garbage collectors to ensure that the dry and wet waste gets segregated at source and remains segregated!
As a result of all this, in 2018, Maharashtra generated 15% of India’s waste trash, with the state contributing 21,867 tonnes per day (TPD) of the nation’s daily output of 1.42 lakh tonnes, revealed data from EnviStats 2018, a document published by the Central Statistics Office under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. While some cities in the state (Pune, Nashik) do have robust garbage collection and disposal mechanisms, Mumbai which generates 44% of the State’s trash, doesn’t.
So come 2020, and the government once again makes a vision statement — eliminate single use plastic by May 1, 2020. But surprise surprise, COVID arrives with a bang and naturally all attention is diverted to handling the largest crisis we have faced as a State / Nation.
So coming back to the e-commerce players, recently the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to collect fines from the likes of Amazon and Flipkart among others, for excessive use of plastic packaging and not meeting their responsibility as an extended producer, under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. The NGT has also asked the CPCB to conduct environmental audits, and collect fines, as per the law. It has issued show cause notices for closure to some players. They need to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to the packaging of their products, but none have submitted any concrete plans yet.
Some ideas that come to my mind are:
On a repeat order at any of the e-commerce / online portals of retail majors, get the waste from the earlier order collected. The logistics partner is anyways delivering the product, so how much time does it take to collect the packaging material? What’s in it for the customer? Well, give certain points to be added to their wallets — all of us looking for a “deal” will surely make that extra effort to keep the packaging aside in lieu of some points to “sweeten the deal”!
Announce buy-backs of used plastic products — things that are ordered on a whim and of no use within a short time. There was a time when carbon credits were actively traded and had value. Device a way to get credit for x kgs of waste or plastic articles collected back and net off from the total waste generated so that the company remains within the permissible limits. Tie ups with recycling companies to achieve this can also be explored.
While I’m sure, the retail and e-commerce majors will come up with solutions over a period of time, in the meantime let’s do our bit — next time your packages come from one of these players, collect the waste instead of dumping it in the garbage, and call the ‘raddiwala’ with the hope that the dealer that he sells it to, further sells it to a recycler. If nothing else, you will get the satisfaction of helping someone who is trying to survive in these crazy times — remember, we haven’t called him for months since we don’t have ‘raddi’ (read as newspapers!) to give him — something that used to be a monthly routine!