Plastic waste management: Environment ministry suggests ‘buy-back’ and two other models

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In a petition filed by Avani Mishra in National Green Tribunal (NGT) against rising plastic pollution in the form of plastic pens, the Environment Ministry has informed the tribunal that three different models are suggested for the producers, importers, and brand owners to implement the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) mechanism to deal with the plastic waste including pens. According to the applicant, 91 percent of the plastic waste in the form of pens is not recycled and 1600 to 2400 million pieces are brought to the market every year.

Media reports suggest, in EPR mechanisms, it is the responsibility of the producers to manage the disposal of the products after their consumption by the consumers. However, Mr. Mishra contested the EPR mechanism implementation on the ground and instead suggested introducing a ‘buy-back’ policy to attract the consumers to actively come forward for plastic disposal.

There have been many successful examples of plastic pen disposals. The ‘Pen-Drive’ movement in Kerala started by a social activist, Lakshmi Menon, replacing plastic pen with an ink pen is a model for the rest of the country. Ms. Menon has also sought to introduce paper pens which promote ball pens in paper scroll under the brand name, Rolapena.
Even before the arrival of Coronavirus, there existed a mismatch between India’s consumption and recycling capability of plastic waste. Now with the normalisation of plastic in the form of gloves, masks, bodysuits, the growth of these medical waste is only going to compound the fight against plastic. While there have been recent initiatives like the banning of ‘single-use plastic’ which a severe threat of plastic waste to our environment and health, it needs to be made a public movement. The inclusion of plastic pen disposal under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan throughout the schools will not only spread awareness but helps to build more environmentally aware citizens in the future.

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