Indian Firms ‘Slyly’ Imported 1.2 Lakh Metric Tonne Plastic Waste, Says Report
A worker removes a tarp cover bales of compressed plastic waste on a truck at a Junyoung Industrial facility in Gimpo, South Korea. (Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg)

Indian Firms ‘Slyly’ Imported 1.2 Lakh Metric Tonne Plastic Waste, Says Report

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More than 25 countries dumped 1.21 lakh metric tonne of plastic waste in India after recycling companies “slyly” imported it, according to a report which drew a sharp response from environment activists saying it may hamper the country’s initiatives to reduce plastic pollution.

According to the report by NGO Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Smriti Manch, 55,000 metric tonne of plastic waste was imported in India from Pakistan and Bangladesh for recycling purposes.

“Over 55,000 mt plastic waste is imported from Pakistan and Bangladesh combined. The import is taking place from more than 25 countries which include the middle east, Europe and the U.S.,” the NGO, affiliated with the Ministry of Environment, said.

Terming the clandestine import practice as unfortunate, environmentalists said it was high time the government cracked its whip on those responsible for it.

Indian Pollution Control Association Chairman Ashish Jain said it was unfortunate that on the one hand the government was banning plastic and on the other, private companies were “slyly” bringing more plastic from outside.

He said the reason why such a practice was prevalent was that plastic imported by the companies from abroad was segregated and cheaper than the plastic waste produced in India.

“It is unfortunate. Though the Ministry of Environment banned plastic use but businessmen bring plastic waste to India. It is the collective responsibility of the government as well as industrialists to follow the rules,” Jain said.

“The reason why recycling companies import plastic waste it that they get this waste free of cost don't have to pay for anything except the transportation charge. They have to pay to procure the Indian plastic waste which is highly contaminated as there is lack of proper segregation here,” he said.

“The Indian recyclers and plastic companies are slyly importing used PET plastic bottles in the form of flakes and lumps, while tons of plastic waste generated every day remain untreated and dumped into landfills and oceans,” according to the report based on a study conducted between April 2018 and February 2019.

More than 19,517 metric tonne of plastic waste was imported in Delhi, second highest quantity of waste import after Uttar Pradesh which got 28,846 metric tonne of plastic waste.

“Recyclers are importing plastic flakes and lumps, since it is cheaper compare to collecting and recycling locally produced waste,” the report said.

Expressing concern over the growing import, PDUSM president Vinod Shukla said it may hamper the efforts to control plastic pollution and demanded that import of plastic flakes and lumps, made from washing and cutting plastic waste, be completely banned.

“If recyclers are not stopped from importing recycled waste, then how will we encourage recycling industry to collect and recycle locally produced waste. The import is affecting government's efforts in curtailing plastic pollution and also doing a disservice to our environment. The NGO demands import ban on plastic flakes and lumps, made from washing and cutting plastic waste,” Shukla said.

Expressing shock over the prevalent practice, Gaurav Bansal, advocate and environment activist, said it was high time the government stepped in and fixed responsibility.

“I am shocked to know this. It's high time that the ministry of environment and CPCB crack the nexus and send behind bars the persons responsible for it. The government must take up the issue with Interpol. India must talk to countries involved,” Bansal said.

According to the report, the third highest quantity of plastic waste import was found in Maharashtra at 19,375 MT, followed by Gujarat at 18,330 MT and Tamil Nadu at 10,689 MT.

“This practice is also proving to be counter-productive to government's efforts in strengthening the collection and recycling of plastic waste in our country. The Minister of Environment has announced government's plans to ban plastic scrap import by August 2019. We also urge him to ban the import of plastic flakes and lumps, made from plastic waste. Currently, the flakes and lumps are being imported through sea, air and road,” the NGO said.

It said globally, PET (petroleum coke) is the most recycled plastic and the current rate of PET bottles recycling in India is around 80 percent.

“If the plastic flakes and lumps import is stopped, it will compel the importers and recycling companies to procure the raw material (plastic waste) locally for manufacturing polyester/textile fiber, sheets, straps and other products, which will help in increasing the collection and recycling rate of used PET bottles up to 99 per cent and also ensure job security for 40 lakh ragpickers,” the report said.

Also read: World’s Plastic Burden: Weight Of A Billion African Elephants 

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