Impact of Tamil Nadu govt. ban on plastic for primary food packaging
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
With a motive to make Tamil Nadu plastic-free, the state government has issued notification regarding ban of use of plastic for primary food packaging. Issued on June 5, World Environment Day, the notification clearly states, "Plastic bags, which constitute or form an “integral part of packaging” in which goods are sealed prior to use at manufacturing or processing units, are not exempted any more from the plastic ban. As per the government order, the concerned authorities will explore alternatives along with Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology. The alternative packaging material has to be compostable plastic and it has to be approved by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
Tamil Nadu generates Municipal Solid Waste of 380gms per day per person as compared to India's average of 310 gms. Though the state has a higher collection rate of 91%, most of the waste is untreated and ends up in land-fills. The waste treatment rate of 11% is less than half of India's average waste treatment rate of 28%. With limited waste management infrastructure, the strategy to move towards one more type of "compostable" material will only add to the waste rather than reduce it.
Tamil Nadu has relatively lower waste generation in India but waste collection, treatment and composting facilities are not adequate.
Compostable materials is not the solution. TN has 9 Composting plants and an annual capacity of 67k tonnes operating at 15% capacity. The state needs to manage its organic waste before complex materials like compostable bags are added to the waste. As per the CPCB report 2019, the state has 140 existing dump sites of which 3 are capped and 3 are converted into sanitary land-fills.
The Swach Bharat Mission points out to a waste management philosophy that prioritizes reducing product usage and reusing products before moving to recycling and composting. It is important that both policy makers and business owners focus on this waste pyramid and appropriate actions are taken as per the suggested hierarchy. Skipping steps and moving to single use alternatives like compostable bags or paper bags will not solve the problem. It will only replace one kind of waste with another.