plastics for a better future
are everywhere; on the sole of your shoes, as the steering wheel of your car;
your camera body and film, the midday coffee cup and may be, even inside you as
a part of soluble stitches or a valve!
have permeated into every aspect of our lives, and with our increasing
consumption of these polymers, they have added to the scourge of solid wastes.
you want to know why and how? Let's go on a plastic trail
plastic, more usage, more wastage
production use of natural resources Natural resources such as petroleum are used
for production of plastics. After a series of chemical and physical processes,
we get finished plastic products in various shapes, sizes and having different
in physical, chemical, mechanical, thermal and electrical properties. Plastic
wastes are sorted according to blowing or moulding quality and, sent for
reprocessing. The term `plastic' describes the compound based on a plastic type
of polymer and the additives. There are different types of plastics, ones which
can be remoulded termed as thermoplastics, such as polystyrene (PS),
poly-propylene(PP), polyamides (nylons), polycarbonate(PC), poly-ethylene(PE)
and polyvinyls(PVC). Plastics which cannot be remoulded are termed as
thermosets such as melamines, polyesters, phenollCS etc.
plastics are normally used for articles where technical requirements are not
very critical. Largest in world production are five commodity polymers-LDPE,
LLDPE, HDPE, PP, PS and PVC. Low density polyethylene (L,DPE)-transparent,
flexible; low molecular weight & low density polyethylene (LLDPE)-a little
more transparent than I,DPE but more puncture resistant; high density
polyethylene (HDPE)-translucent, more rigid than LDPE/LLDPE, more moisture
resistant; polypropylene (PP)-rigid, suitable for hinged appliances;
poly-styrene (PS)-transparent, rigid, brittle; polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-fire
retardant, good dielectric strength, (soft/rigid), are few of the well known
Plastics have applications
in various fields
are being extensively used in every facet of our lives!!
Agriculture primarily PE, PP & PVC plastics are used extensively. Green
House Coverings and fertilizer sacks are of PVC plastic and have a short user
pipes, drums and tanks are made of PVC as well as HDPE plastics.
and pots are also moulded from PE, PVC, PS plastics etc.
15-20% of an automobile is made of non-metallic material (glass, rubber,
plastics, etc.). Batteries, fuel tanks, bumpers, wires & cables have plastic
construction industry mainly uses PE & PVC plastics. These plastics have a
much longer user life cycle than any other plastics in any of the sectors.
in electronic appliances and equipment
sets, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners have cabinets and other parts
made of PS, PE, PVC etc.
bags in PE, Suitcases in PP, Artificial flowers in PE, Dolls/toys in PVC/PE/PS,
conduits in PVC, floors tiles in PVC, buckets in PE,PP, PS are other
applications in which plastics are used. PE, PVC, PI' films, packaging, shopping
bags and medicinal foils, moulded items like containers and other range of
household nondurables, combs, ball point pens, tooth brushes are other
and PVC are used for making woven sacks. Syringes, bottles, tubings are in PE,
and PVC agricultural films and multi-coloured, PVC ribbon curtains, PVC shoe
soles, HDPE, LDPE buckets are other common item made from these polymers.
Cycle route of plastic waste
plastic consumer items have short life spans and quickly make their way into
are they a problem?
plastics make up only about 5%, by weight of total Municipal Wastes, they are
one of the biggest contributors to the solid waste problem.
generates 250-300 metric tonnes of plastic waste per day, half of which is
recycled into carry bags. Carry bags cause blockage of drains and sewer lines
leading to major disruptions in the drainage system and hence are a public
plastics causes premature death of many land and aquatic animals. In rivers,
ponds and seas, death of these aquatic animals cause disruption in the
ecological balance necessary for maintaining the quality of water.
bags and other non-biodegradable matter cause choking of landmass, making it
unfit for growth of life forms such as plants and microorganisms.
of plastics on land prevents proper drainage thus causing landslides in hilly
infectious plastics poses a grave danger to ragpickers who pick the waste bare
handed. This makes them prone to various eye, skin diseases and respiratory
Plastic Bags and Plastic Waste recycling: Slow death by design
not done properly)
PLASTIC RECYCLING IF DONE PROPERLY IN MEDIUM OR LARGE SCALE
UNITS WITH POLLUTION CONTROL DEVICES, CAN BE USEFUL IN MANUFACTURING STRUCTURAL
SUCH AS PARK BENCHES, TELEPHONE AND ELECTRIC POLES, DIVIDERS, GIRDERS AND EVEN
Small and unapproved Plastic Recycling Units reprocess
plastic waste which have been bought and collected from houses, offices, shops
and institutions or picked from dump sites, bins and gutters by ragpickers and
sold to agents for a small amount. Ragpickers render a great service to us by
removing these plastic bags from the environment but unfortunately recycling
them in this way is extremely harmful to all of us. Furthermore burning them in
incinerators, like many municipalities want to do, are even more harmful because
they produce toxic gases like dioxins and furans.
wrong with Plastic Recycling?
By the principle "like dissolves like", plastics
being made from petrochemicals, allow other petrochemical based substances such
as lube oil, mobile oil, pesticides, paints, detergents etc
to penetrate them. Therefore, these containers, sorted according to colour,
then regranulated and moulded into recycled products also contain toxic
principles in them. When you put any edible item or water into these recycled
containers, the toxic residues will leach into edible items or water in the
recycled containers. Due to ignorance, people use these recycled plastic
containers for carrying food and other edible items. Improperly sorted waste
containing toxic substances along with other plastic waste, are granulated and
moulded into food grade containers.
or vanaspati containers made from reprocessed High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
granules could be from white or light colour containers which had been used to
package materials such as mobile oil, paints, detergents and pesticides and
hence have toxic substances in them.
bags made from used HDPE & LDPE plastic waste which may have contained toxic
or other products and coloured with nonstandard powder colours are toxic to
touch and have very poor or no tensile strength and end up in the garbage or
gutter within 24 hours of their use.
B. Heating Problems
(PS): Thermocol and other PS material which are melted to be reprocessed release
styrene even at 50-60°C.
is an established cancer causing substance (carcinogen) and extremely harmful to
human as well as animal health.
lead and cadmium based stabilizers and colours are harmful when used in footwear
because the body, through the skin absorbs these chemicals.
poor quality PVC cables manufactured in this manner are responsible for large
number of fires, which not only cause accidents, loss of money and resources but
also are extremely harmful to human health. These fires lead to liberation of
FIG gas and dioxins in the air. Also pigments containing heavy metals release
them into the air when burnt, contaminating air, water and soil.
PVC water pipes made from recycled granules are processed with a high quantity
of fillers-Calcium Carbonate which is responsible for brittleness and easy
breakage of pipes causing disruption, wastage and pollution of water.
Sorting and segregation of bio-medical PVC tubings, bags etc. cause injury
and disease to all those who are involved in this task & dioxins when burnt.
soles are separated from `uppers' by roasting them and softening them on cowdung
grates causing air pollution and respiratory problems. Also pthalates which are
used in PVC cause high toxicity in children & adults.
restriction on quality
To hide the dullness of plastics, non-permitted colours and
additives are used in excess leading to poor quality of products thereby
rendering them unsafe and dangerous.
locally made reprocessing machinery with no temperature control, no quality control and with low grade of additives and colours
contribute to low quality of products which are deleterious to human health and
Addition of excess
quantity of sub-standard Chlorinated Paraffin Wax (CPW) i.e. secondary
plasticisers during reprocessing of the PVC cables gives shine to the recycled
cables. In summer when temperature reaches approx 50"C, CPW starts melting
from these cables leaving gaps in them. This leads to short circuits and fires.
Furthermore, in congested places, lots of criss- connections in the area
increases the chances of fire incidents. Hence, extremely poor quality PVC
cables with high quantities of plasticisers such as CPW are responsible for the
large number of fires that have now become common in tall buildings, marriage
halls and even during functions with temporary electrical connections in many
parts of India.
BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) prescribes quality of
resins and methods of production, temperature etc. for different plastics and
different uses. Colours and pigments used in master batches are also regulated
by BIS standards. These standards are most often blatantly violated and so
called `food grade' products are made in the most nonstandard manner.
Plastic bags and plastic waste recycling
occupational safety measures: An economic boon or an environmental
Though the plastics recycling industry is making claims of
providing employment to lakhs of people but at what cost? Let's peep inside some
of these units to find the answer. These reprocessing units are operating in
sheds and small rooms of dimensions from 60 to 100 sq. ft, which are poorly
Equipment/machinery used for reprocessing are old
and run down with unprotected wiring and no temperature control and no safety or
pollution control equipment. The same units are used for
the waste to be reprocessed, process equipment and the operation of the
machinery. This can lead to large fires which, often happen especially in
summers when the conditions are dry and plastics tend to catch fire easily. Old
men and women, young children of five or six, pregnant and lactating mothers,
infants, youth and others are all wasting away in this atmosphere of dust,
infections and toxic fumes!!
What can we do as individuals? Say
no to plastic carry bags!
a cloth bag not a carry bag or a plastic bag!
shopkeepers and vendors from giving plastic bags to customers. Instead ask for
paper or jute bags and pay for them. Better still, carry your own bag.
not burn plastics as it gives off toxic fumes, which are extremely harmful to
throw plastic bags in your surroundings, in gutters or on roads and stop others
if they do so.
using plastics for single use, disposable purposes such as plastic bags, bubble
packaging, plastic cups, plates, spoons, straws etc.
you have to buy goods in plastic containers, reuse them wherever possible. Don't
allow wrong type of reuse like putting hot milk or tea in plastic water bottle
or pesticide containers. Don't put kerosene or pesticides in containers meant
for food packaging. They will get reprocessed as containers for food and water
and toxins will come back to you.
plastic containers and other recyclable plastic products to kabadiwalla but make
sure that containers of toxic products like cleaners, detergents, pesticides and
harmful chemicals are recycled into structurals or sent to landfills through an
organised garbage stream.
Every action counts!
Let's work together for a poison free future...
Recycled Plastic Manufacture and Usage Rules 1999
of Environment And Forests
Delhi, the 2nd September 1999
Whereas draft rules in exercise Of the powers conferred by
clause (VIII) of Subsection(.'
) of section 3 read with section 25 of the Environment
(Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986)
in the gazette vide S. O. 9)80 (E)
dared 20 of the November, 1998 entitled Recycled
Usage Rules, 1998 inviting objections From the public within GO days
From the dare OF the publication of the said notification and whereas all
objections received were duly considered.
Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by
clause (VI I}) of sub-section (2) of section 3 read with section 25 of the
environment (Protection) act, 1986 the Central Government hereby notifies the
rules for the manufacture and use of recycled plastics carry bangs and con trainers
1.. Short title and commencement :-
(A) These rules may be called the
Recycled plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules 1999. (B) They shall come into
force on the date of their publication III the Official Gazette
Definitions:- In these rules unless the context requires,
means the Environment (Protection) Au, 1986;
means ready-to-eat food and food
products , fast food, processed an cl cool ed Food in liquid, powder ,
solid or semi-solid Form;
person who sells foodstuffs as defined above packaged and stored in plastic
bags and containers.
The prescribed aur6urity for eufocenement Of the provisions of these manufacture
shall be the Stare Pollution Control Committees in respect of Union Territories
aur6urity for enforcement of the the provision of these rules
related to the use, collection segregation, it transportation and disposal shall be the
District Collector/Depury Commissioner of the concerned district where no such
authority has been constituted by the state Government/ union Teritories:
4. Prohibition of usage of carry bags or container made of recycled plastics:-
No vendor shall use cary bags or containers made of recycled plastic fro storing
carrying, dispensing or regarding non- bridgeable garbage
5. Conditions of Manufacture
carry bags or containers made of plastic- Subject to the provision
of rule 4, any person may manufacture carry bags or constancies made of
plastics if following condition are satisfied, namely
carry bags and containers of virgin plastic shall be in natural shade or white:
Carry bags and containers made of recycled plastic and reused fro purpose other
then storing and packing food stuffs shall be manufactured using pigments and
colurants as per IS:9833:981 entitled "List of pigments and colourants for
use in plastic in contact with food stuff, pharmaceuticals and drinking water
6.. Recycling:- Recycling of plastics
shall he undertaken .strictly in accordance with the Bureau of Indian standard
.specification 1S 14534:1998 entitled "'The Guidelines For
Recycling of Plastic"
Marketing / codification : - Manufactures of recycled
plastic carry bags having printing facilities shall code / mark carry bags and
containers as per Bureau of Indian Slandered Specification: IS 14534: 1998 entitle
" The Guidelines fro Recycling of Plastics" and the end product made
out of recycled plastic shall be marked as "recycled" along with the
indication of the percentage of use of recycle material. Other manufacture who
do not have printing facilities, shall comply with the condition within one year
of publication of these rules. Manufactures shall print on each packet of carry
bags as to whether these are made of "recycled material" of or
8. 'Thickness of carry bags :- the minimum
thickness of carry bags made of virgin plastic or recycled plastic shall not be
less then 20 microns.
9. Self regulation by certain person:- Without prejudice to
the provision contained in rule 3, the Plastic Industry Association, through their
member units, shall undertake self regulatory measures. [ File number