Smaller cities take the lead in drive against plastic waste
Towering landfills, garbage strewn around on the roads and plastic bags becoming the staple for stray animals; this has become a common feature of a large number of Indian cities, including the national capital.
While cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru are still struggling to manage plastic waste, some smaller cities are far head in completing the daunting task of controlling manufacture and recycling of plastic already in circulation, by effective policies and partnership from citizens.
Indore, Madhya Pradesh
Indore, Madhya Pradesh’s most populous city, was choking on plastic waste till early this year. In January, the city’s municipal body set up a plastic collection centre (PCC) to reuse and recycle plastic waste, and the results have made the city an example of how plastic can be effectively managed.
Data by Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) shows Indore generates nearly 50,000 kilos of municipal waste every day, 13,000 kilos of which is plastic waste. Till 2018, the agency used to dispose all of its plastic waste by burning it, which was also becoming a major reason for the deteriorating air quality in the city.
“We have tied up with an NGO named ‘Sarthak’ to come up with ways to recycle plastic waste. They are providing us with the technical expertise. Along with the PCCs, we have installed machines called ‘plastic phatka machines’, these are used to cleanse contaminated plastic for recycling,” said Dhani Ram Dubey, zonal in-charge at IMC.
Dubey explained that rag pickers have been roped in to help the municipality segregate plastic waste that can be recycled. What is left is taken to the PCC and purified and shredded. The shredded waste is then bundled in blocks of 100 kg and carried to the cement plants to be used as a fuel for boilers.
IMC estimates show nearly 45,000 kilos of plastic waste is recycled every day.
In 1998, this small city nestled in the Himalayas banned disposable plastic bags. In 2016, the capital of Sikkim set another example and banned the use of packaged drinking water in government offices and events.
Styrofoam and thermocol disposable plates and cutlery was also banned across Sikkim to cut down toxic plastic pollution and tackle its garbage problem.
“In the 1990s, because of excessive use of plastic carry bags, when a heavy rainstorm hit the state, the plastic got washed down and blocked major drains. This resulted in a huge landslide. Looking at the damage caused, the state government banned plastic bags,” said Rajendra P Gurung, CEO, Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS), a local non-governmental organisation that works in Sikkim.
In an action report submitted by the Gangtok municipality earlier this year to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based research and advocacy organisation, the city administration said it is now on its way to clamping plastic bottle bans strictly. The ban will also apply to tourists.
“We are speaking to guesthouses and hotels to put up boards asking tourists to carry their own water bottles and fill water from restaurants before heading for their daily sightseeing schedule,” the report said.
Innovation is at the centre of recycling and reusing plastic waste in this city in Chhattisgarh. Ambikapur, which bagged the title of the second cleanest city in India after Indore this year, has opened the first ‘garbage cafe’, which was built to spread awareness against the use of plastic, feeding homeless people, rag pickers and to empower women who have been hired to run the facility.
The concept of this cafe, located near the Ambikapur bus stand, is that people can get their waste weighed, receive a coupon and relish an Indian thali. The ‘rate card’ of the cafe says that one kilo of waste will get you a full thali, while half-a-kilo can get you a breakfast.
“We are getting great support and recognition for this initiative. We are now working to form a self-financing model for the cafe,” said Ambikapur mayor Ajay Tirkey.
Tirkey said Ambikapur’s efforts of recycling plastic waste began much before the launch of the garbage cafe. In 2015, the city laid an one-kilometre stretch of road by mixing granulated plastic waste with tar in Bhagwanpur.
“We want to make our city an example for other cities to follow. If we can do it, everyone can,” Tirkey said.
Ernakulam and Alappuzha, Kerala
The Kerala government in 2017 released a ‘green protocol’ to manage waste, especially plastic. Apart from issuing strict directives to government offices across the state, the administration also announced incentives such as issuing instant marriage certificates to couples who have plastic free weddings.
“The aim is to reduce the use of plastic. Even if we reuse non-degradable articles, over years there will not be much decline in its presence. Reducing its use is the more effective way to achieve our plastic-free society goal,” Suchitwa Mission, the state’s nodal agency for sanitation, said in an email response.
The state also launched in 2017 the ‘responsible tourism’ mission where tourist destinations across Kerala will be given green certification based on how much they reduced plastic use.
Kovalam, Munnar, Alappuzha, including Alappuzha backwaters, Muhamma and Marari Beach, Kumarakom, Fort Kochi, Wayanad, Kollam, Bekal and Thekkady promise to be completely plastic free tourist destinations by the end of 2019, officials said.