Old bugbear in new bag: degradable plastic may be as bad as regular plastic | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Old bugbear in new bag: degradable plastic may be as bad as regular plastic

delhi Updated: Jan 11, 2010 23:20 IST
Avishek G Dastidar

Biodegradable plastic bags are not a “greener” substitute to ordinary plastic bags, a new government study has found.

In Delhi, which has a ban on all plastic bags as an environment-friendly initiative, biodegradable plastic bags are the only kind allowed at certain places.

But a Central Pollution Control Board study has now said that bio-plastic bags, also known as compostable bags, do not really “degrade” in the environment and poses a hazard similar to regular plastic bags.

“It is to be ruled out that biodegradable plastics once thrown … would biodegrade by its own, however, the biodegradable plastics need to get exposed to the controlled environment for their bio-degradation,” said the study Biodegradable plastic: Impact on Environment. “Therefore, it can be concluded that biodegradable or compostable plastics may not be a better option.”

Unlike regular plastic bags, biodegradable plastic bags are made of organic raw material with a marginal amount of non-organic additives. The study found that most available biodegradable plastic bags compost in a “compost-friendly environment”.

“In India, composting of these plastic bags is still better than burning of the regular plastic bags, which is a harmful practice prevalent across the country,” said Dr SK Nigam, Senior Scientist, CPCB.

The Delhi government’s plastic bag ban grants some concession only to biodegradable bags. Delhi’s plastic bag ban implies that for domestic, non-commercial purposes, only biodegradable bags can be used.

The plastic lobby, which has been trying to get the ban rolled back or its scope trimmed, said it stood vindicated.

Said OP Ratra, expert representing the plastic lobby, “It takes 6 to 18 months for biodegradable bags to get composted. Obviously they’re hazardous.”

The CPCB study proposes more research in the filed to make this plastic more viable in the market. It also suggests only short-term use of this kind of plastic bags.