Plastic waste in Himalayan states

Plastic waste in Himalayan states

Context: As per The Himalayan Clean-up (2018-21) drive and the National Productivity Council of India’s waste and brand audit, there is an increase in plastic waste (especially non-recyclables) in Himalayan states.

• The Himalayan Clean-up (2022) waste audit results showed that 92.7% of trash was plastic, with 72% of waste being non-recyclable plastic.
• In Deepor Beel (Ramsar site) in Assam it was observed that Greater Adjutant Storks were eating plastic waste in landfill in place of fish inside wetland.

Why do we see Plastic waste in huge numbers in Himalayan states?
• Rapid and Unplanned Urbanization: The growth of cities and towns in the region has led to an increase in the generation of plastic waste.
• Tourism: The surge in tourist activity has significantly exacerbated plastic waste, overwhelming the existing waste management systems in mountain towns across the Indian Himalayan Region.
• Unscientific plastic disposal: India has one of the highest mismanaged waste index (MWI), at 98.55%, in the world (after Kenya, Nigeria and Mozambique). This index measures the gap in waste management capacity and plastic consumption. According to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India is recycling (through mechanical recycling) 12% of its plastic waste, burning 20% of its plastic waste and 68% is unaccounted for.
• Insufficient Waste Management Infrastructure: The existing systems for waste management are not equipped to handle the increasing amounts of plastic waste.
• Microplastics: Microplastics, resulting from the degradation of larger plastic items, have been discovered in the Himalayas’ glaciers, rivers, and streams, posing a long-term threat to the region’s ecosystems and water quality.

Provisions to deal with Plastic pollution
• The government has brought Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM) 2016, Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules 2016 and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) 2022 to regulate plastic pollution in India.
• Himachal Pradesh has a buy back policy for non-recyclable and single-use plastic waste since 2019.
• Sikkim banned packaged mineral water use from January 2022.

What needs to be done?
• Empower local bodies to effectively contain waste generation and management. Provide infrastructure, people and resources to overcome plastic waste.
• Public engagement through education campaigns and waste segregation initiatives is essential to address the plastic waste crisis.

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