Himachal Pradesh’s Fight against Plastic

Since 1990 the government of Himachal Pradesh has accorded high priority to deal with plastic waste. To ameliorate the effort, state of H.P enacted H.P Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 1995 to deal with plastic waste and was put into practice from 1996. Consequently ban on polythene bags was initiated on 2004 and by 2009 they institutionalised plastic waste management by introducing “Polythene Hatao, Paryavaran Bachao Abhiyan” campaign in 3 phases.

According to a rough estimate about 60-65 metric tonnes of plastic waste is being generated in an year of which only 2-3 tonnes is disposed of safely and the rest is found open in the environment mixed with Municipal Solid Waste. The disposed plastic waste were either recycled, used in road construction or as an energy source for cement kilns.

The Polythene Hatao campaign progressed successfully, but thereafter it lost momentum due to social and technological factors, leading to increase of plastic pollution. A noticeable example of its success  is the Himachal Pradesh public works department’s construction of  175km roads in various locations using 144 metric tonnes of plastic from 2009- 2012.

Reasons for the initial setback;

  1. Lack of mechanism for proper segregation of plastic. Only 0.5% of plastic is disposed of in this manner, the rest gets mixed up with other waste.
  2. The failure of the producers of plastic in adhering to Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) rules of Solid Waste Management,2016
  3. Rag pickers find it cumbersome to sort reusable plastic waste from biowaste and it is financially unrewarding as a kilo of plastic yields only 4 rupees, sacrificing their health and wellbeing.
  4. Choice of plastic for road construction was limited to LDPE, HDPE, PET and Polyurethane plastics as not all discarded plastics were suitable for road construction.

Relaunch of the campaign

The entire campaign was reviewed and re-launched on 27th May 2018 with a weeklong “Polythene Hatao, Paryavaran Bachao Abhiyan” programme by the Honourable Chief Minister Mr Jairam Thakur of Himachal Pradesh from Shimla. Since its re-launch and the recent state’s ban on thermocol and one time use plastic cutlery which account for 30-35% of the plastic waste, plastic waste management measures of H.P government is proceeding in the right direction.

To further boost the ongoing effort of plastic waste reduction a “Plastic Buyback Scheme” was initiated on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi by the state government. The scheme was launched  to buyback non-recyclable, single-use plastic waste with a minimum support price of Rs.75/kg with an initial budget of Rs.2.81 crores with an estimated collection of 75000kg.The non-recyclable waste comprising polythene bags will be purchased from rag pickers, households by Municipality through Urban Local Bodies.

Categories of plastic under buy back scheme

  1. Only single use plastic packing waste items like biscuit, bread, toffee wrappers, cloth, and mattress covers, which are clean and dry   to be purchased under buy back scheme. Wet, dirty single use plastic are not accepted under the scheme and same is returned back to the rag picker /household.
  2. Heavy Plastic waste items such as plastic furniture, kitchenware, PET bottles ,bucket, mugs biomedical waste, plastic crockery  and other recyclable plastics are not included in the buy back scheme.

Remedial Measures Initiated since then:

  1. A minimum support price (MSP) of Rs. 75/kg on non-recyclable plastic waste was fixed in view of the prevailing wage rates, payable to rag pickers or individuals from households who bring the plastic waste to Urban local bodies(ULB’s)
  2. The cost of transportation of plastic waste shall be borne by ULB’s as per the area of their jurisdiction.
  3. It is also the responsibility of ULB’s to create a network of rag pickers for the collection of plastic waste in an organised manner.
  4. Manned plastic waste collection counters at ULB’s to accept the plastic waste.
  5. The H.P public works department shall accept plastic waste from designated collection centres for the construction of roads.
  6. To ensure that the collected waste doesn’t end up in some landfill, the state installed “waste to energy plants”. Currently three plants are installed- one in Shimla, and the other two in Kullu and Baddi.

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