Even after years of debating it, the problem of plastic garbage in the state remains unresolved. The pity is the government does not even know how much plastic garbage is generated.
The ill-effects of plastic garbage on the environment are several, according to Goa State Pollution Control Board chairman, Dr Simon de Sousa. Stray cattle may eat items along with plastic bag from garbage and die due to the blockage of their alimentary canal; plastic bags which sink in water kill organisms in river or sea bed; burning of plastic garbage produces releases highly toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, chlorine, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, besides deadly dioxin. Plastic garbage contributes to the generation of 16 per cent of chlorine in the environment and several carcinogens.
Government initiatives for plastic garbage disposal have been working unsatisfactorily. The government has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Associated Cement Company (ACC) for handling plastic waste. But for this to work, the government has to turn the garbage into one cubic foot-bales for handling at ACC’s plant in Karnataka. That involves high costs. The cost works out to about `6,000 per tonne of plastic waste.
Citizens have to play a responsible role in reducing the amount of plastic garbage. They can use goods made of non-plastic materials in their daily life. If you look at the wide range of goods which when discarded generate plastic waste you may feel ashamed and more concerned about doing something about reducing its quantum. Plastic waste comes from discarded polythene carry bags, blow-moulded containers and other moulded items, discarded PVC chappals/shoes, discarded PVC mineral water bottles/PET mineral water and liquor bottles and PS ice cream/cold drink cups/disposable catering plates, foam packagings, medicine foils, household non-durables, combs, ball point pens, tooth brushes, broken plastics articles, film packaging and so on.
Goa has been able to recycle PET bottles separately, as also other recyclable plastic material. The government has also imposed a ban on the sale and use of plastic bags below 40 micron thickness. Although the ban remains in force it has not been possible for the police to enforce it.
If Goa’s first problem is acquiring information about the quantum of plastic waste generated in the state, the government may use a simple method to arrive at some close estimation. The state must impose prohibition on throwing or depositing plastic articles in public places and facilitate the collection through garbage in identifiable and marked garbage receptacles for non-biodegradables placed at convenient places. This is already being done by force of law in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
Across the country plastic waste is handled in an unscientific manner. More than half of plastic waste collected and segregated gets recycled back into materials for further processing into consumer products, while the balance is left unutilized. The Bureau of Indian Standards has issued guidelines on recycling of plastics waste including code of practices for collection. However, sorting is still being done following conventional practices, which need to be upgraded. Goa has no other choice but to collect plastic waste at identified centres and send them for organizing recycling. The sooner we do it the better. The Chief Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar has promised to set up mechanisms by September to take care of plastic waste. Let us hope these mechanisms work in an effective manner so the state is rid of a nagging environmental problem.