Better ways to tackle plastic
Mondy June 23 2008 08:32 IST
The municipal corporation in Coimbatore, whose anti-plastics campaign has been derailed by a high court stay order, could learn something from an ongoing initiative across the country, at Guwahati. The two are based on different premises, if aimed at the same end, but this is an issue where any useful thinking is welcome.
The Coimbatore initiative, as we have reported, was to ban any use or sale of plastic bags (upto a certain thickness), tumblers, plates and other throw-away items; in a welcome change, the campaign began and got going with strong all-party political backing. It was months in the making and launched in April; the stay (petitioned for by the association of makers and sellers of plastic goods) followed in a few weeks and all enforcement has been frozen.
The Guwahati experiment, also profiled in our columns, is a private initiative. A non-government organisation has got together with other women’s groups and is involving rag pickers in going house to house. They provide ginger and garlic in exchange for scrap plastic; every kg of the latter gets you Rs 10 worth of the former.
It began very recently and has got off to a good start. For now, they accept only recyclable plastic. Homes get a litter bin made of bamboo to store the stuff. The NGO pays the rag-pickers Rs 8 for every kg collected; earlier, the scrap value the latter got from recycling factories was only Rs 2. The NGO says it is able to sell the plastics to these factories for Rs 18-20 a kg. They’re also negotiating with a Nagpur professor who has patented a technique for converting plastic waste to fuel oil; once that is settled they will collect non-recyclable plastic, too, and hope to gradually cover the entire state.
It does seem to us that the Coimbatore municipality (and all others) could usefully take this thinking forward; it would also help if they work with the market in this fashion, instead of starting with bans and fines which immediately impact jobs and trade. Use of waste as fuel has exciting potential: note that the cement giant, ACC, uses waste (not just plastic yet) as a hydrocarbon fuel at five of its 11 units, and plans to convert the rest. If civic bodies and business join hands all could benefit.