Puri in Odisha became the first Indian city to provide 24×7 safe drinking water from tap for residents this year. The city has installed water fountains at 400 locations to eliminate the use of plastic bottles in an effort to reduce 400 metric ton of plastic waste. Such tap water arrangements can drive down plastic waste from single-use water bottles and keep our rivers and oceans safe for future generations.
Sikkim, too, is doing away with plastic bottles. CM PS Tamang has banned packaged mineral water bottles from the state with effect from January 1, 2022. Natural water resources such as rivers as well as reusable bottles have been encouraged as alternatives.
India as a nation is leading the way to reduce plastic in as many ways possible. It has also become the first Asian country to launch the India Plastics Pact this year which targets to enable businesses to transition towards a circular economy for plastics by 2030. This is an initiative between the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and WWF India to keep plastic packaging out of the natural environment. The pact targets to be achieved by 2030 are: 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, among a few other measures; 25% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
By stimulating new business models to reduce the total amount of plastic packaging, this pact also helps to build a stronger recycling system, ensuring that plastic packaging can be effectively recycled and made into new products.
It brings together leading businesses at national level to make commitments for building a circular system for plastics. It is supported by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and WRAP, a global NGO based in the UK. According to Marcus Gover, CEO, WRAP, the pact aims to transform the use of plastics across India, just as it has in the UK, Europe, the US, Canada, South Africa and Chile.
India generates 9.46 million tonne of plastic waste annually, of which 40% is not collected; about half of all plastics produced are used in packaging, most of it is single-use in nature. But the good news is that this year, as many as 27 business houses and supporting organisations will join the Pact. The list includes major FMCG brands and various manufacturers, including Tata, Amazon, Hindustan Unilever, Coca-Cola India, Godrej, Marico and ITC.
But then, do we need to rapidly scale up packaging innovations and infrastructure across the circular economy? Well, the solutions exist. Thousands of circular innovations and waste management systems worldwide have demonstrated potential in eliminating plastic waste across the 3Rs (reduction, reuse, recycling), but they remain severely underfunded and cannot scale. “We face a $5billion a year financing gap for effective waste management in five Asian countries alone, and unless we fill that, our world cannot transition to a circular economy. Through rePurpose’s PlasticNeutral certification, conscious individuals and businesses can mobilise crucially needed financing to help bridge this gap and make it financially possible to fight plastic pollution,” says Komal Sinha, global director of sustainability, rePurpose Global, a social enterprise building the world’s first plastic credit platform.
Plastic use can be minimised and not completely taken away by industries entirely. The best solution is to recycle into products as it helps in environmental conservation. Last month, PepsiCo India partnered with Smile Foundation to launch a special initiative on plastic waste management ‘Waste no More’. The initiative is aligned with PM Narendra Modi’s call to celebrate Rashtriya Swachhta Diwas. The initiative engages over 200,000 students from over 200 schools across over 50 cities in India to bring behavioural change and educate the community and students about the importance of preserving the environment and learning about sustainability.
Brands are taking various initiatives to reduce usage. Like plastic bottles are washed, chopped into flakes, melted, formed into chips, extruded into yarn and woven into fabric, etc. Thailand-based Carpets Inter manufactures eco-friendly carpets from discarded plastic bottles to reduce water consumption per unit. Zero-waste chocolate brand Kocoatrait mixes husk of the cocoa beans with cotton waste from garment factories to create upcycled wrapping material. The cocoa husk paper is plastic free, paper free, tree free, compostable, biodegradable and recyclable. Healthcare venture Clensta uses active ingredients compressed in the ‘smart concentrate’ form in an infinity bottle which can be refilled with the concentrates, drastically cutting down plastic use. Footwear brand Crocs has introduced bio-based croslite material for its iconic product lines and aims to become a 100% vegan brand by the end of 2021.