Every year we produce around 400 million tonnes of plastic waste worldwide. Of the seven billion tonnes of waste amassed to date, less than 10% of this has been recycled. The remaining 90% is buried in landfills, makes its way overseas to be burnt, or is lost into the environment where it can live for up to 400 years.1
There is no escaping that plastic waste is a significant global environmental problem. Its myriad of uses have made it virtually ubiquitous, and its properties have made it an indispensable part of our everyday world. Over a third of all plastics produced are used in packaging; providing access to longer-lasting food, medicine, cosmetics and other perishable products, as well offering a cheaper, lighter (and therefore less carbon intensive to move around) packaging material than glass or metal. The result is that plastic, with its generally low recovery and recycling rates, has in many cases displaced other materials that are much more likely to be recycled.
The situation is particularly acute in India, where around 15 million tonnes of waste is produced every year. Over the last five years, the amount of plastic waste produced has doubled.2 While plastic has undoubtedly revolutionised modern life, it has also created an enormous burden on the environment, with many of India's cities struggling to manage the sheer volume of waste generated every day. The situation is exacerbated by the lack of awareness amongst consumers about the impact of plastic waste on the environment, as well as the limited infrastructure and resources available to effectively dispose of or recycle the waste.
One of the biggest challenges in India is the widespread use of single-use plastics such as sachets, straws, and bags, which are often discarded after just one use. EVOH (ethylene vinyl alcohol) offers the best resistance to gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, and hence the applications are widespread. These small plastic packets, used to package everything from single use sachets of shampoo and detergent, to food and spices are estimated to account for over 70% of all plastic waste generated in India.
EVOH or ethylene vinyl alcohol offers the best resistance to gases such as oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It is used to package food, drugs, cosmetics, and other perishable products.
PP or Polypropylene is one of the most commonly used thermos plastics in the world. Commonly used in packaging, injection moulding, fibres and fabrics, as well as tapes and ropes.
Phenol, isopropylated phosphate or PIP is most commonly used in footwear and in textiles, polyurethane foam, electronic equipment such as video display and baby bottle nipples.
Polyamide (PA) is common in textiles like clothing and carpets. It also often features in items that require both strength and flexibility, including fishing line and nets.
PVC or polyvinyl chloride is one of the most widely used polymers in the world, with widespread applications across industrial, technical, construction, transport, packaging, electrical/electronic and healthcare applications.
The challenge of collecting and managing this single use plastic waste is significant, as these items are often discarded indiscriminately and can end up littering streets, fields, and waterways. The Ganges, before it meets the Brahmaputra River and joins the Indian Ocean, flows through some of the most densely inhabited stretches of India and Bangladesh and is a vital water source for over 650 million people. It is also the second most polluted river in the world, carrying over 6,000 tons of plastic waste into the ocean every year.3
As the world's second-most populous country, the scale of India’s plastic waste problem is immense.
As the world's second-most populous country, the scale of India’s plastic waste problem is immense. Addressing the problem requires a multifaceted approach that involves stakeholders across the value chain, from consumers and producers to policymakers and waste management authorities.
- Reduce packaging consumption per unit of production by 20% from the base year of fiscal year 2017-2018.
- 100% of the packaging material is recyclable, reusable, recoverable, or compostable.
- Use at least 10% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in plastic packaging.
Marico – 96% of product packaging (by weight) is recyclable and they collected c.6,300mt (equivalent in weight) of post-consumer multi-layer product packaging in 2022. They have also committed to the following goals –
- Zero Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) use in packaging by 2025
- 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging portfolio by 2025
- Reduce packaging intensity by 10% by 2030 (from FY20)
- 100% pellet loss free
Tata Consumer Products – is a plastic neutral company. They have also committed to the following goals by 2030:
- Define a list of unnecessary or problematic plastic packaging and items and take measures to address them through redesign and innovation.
- 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable or recyclable.
- 50% of plastic packaging to be effectively recycled.
- 25% average recycled content across all plastic packaging
Multi-layer plastic sachet packaging is still one of the most used formats in rural distribution across consumer goods, and remains a key challenge to address both in terms of collection and recyclability. We continue to engage with companies on this topic and provide support for the ongoing development of the Indian Plastics Pact, however there is still much more work to be done. In addition to improving waste collection and management infrastructure, there is still a need for greater public awareness and education on the issue.
Ultimately, addressing India's plastic waste problem will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including government, businesses, and individuals. By working together, it is possible to create a cleaner, more sustainable future for all.
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