Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why did the Plastic Carry Bags Get Banned in the Indian Cities?

Polyethylene (PE) or simply polythene, Polypropylene (PP) , Polystyrene (PS) and Polyurethane (PU) are perhaps the most commonly used plastics that have revolutionized the way people used packaged products of various kinds. Without a proper plastic packaging, it is impossible to think of products like food items, medicines, mineral water, aerated drinks and many other consumable items are getting sold to the consumers. Plastic bags, both use and throw types and re-usable ones have made shopping a pleasurable and easy task for people both in the cities and the rural areas. 

The success of the polymer industry that makes these plastics have made tremendous profits for the petrochemical giants of the world. These industrial giants make the monomers and the bulk polymers which are the raw materials to the numerous small and big  plastic making industries around the world. 

But all these success turned out to become a curse in the recent years that even the mention of the word 'plastic' is making the otherwise gentle environmentalists furious and ferocious !

In the recent past, some city governments in developed nations like the US have considered it wise to ban plastic carry bags in their cities. Indian environmentalists and politicians, all keen to project themselves as green ambassadors and green saviors of the nation are quick to follow with wide spread bans of plastics making the job of the otherwise lethargic local police men more lucrative and active ! It is yet another point to investigate to find out their real agendas in banning plastic carry bags, the item which made life simple for many citizens all throughout these years. 

The thin plastic bags that the local trader happily handed out to the fish, meat and vegetable buyer in the local market for their customer to take home their daily needs without any hassles have all of a sudden have become a dreaded material comparable to perhaps the nuts and bolts of an AK-47 that made a famous Indian actor confined to the dreaded jails of India. Possessing and carrying plastic carry bags of negligible thickness has become a crime in India ! Of course, the Indians are just imitating their big brothers else where!  Unless the big brothers come out with some solutions, the Indians cannot possibly have some solutions !

How could they ? These bloody plastic bags are clogging the drains, the sewers of the apartments, the stomachs of the holy cows and what not ! It is so a big mistake that it was allowed to proliferate to this extent, some of the plastic haters argue ! But my brain is not digesting the logic of banning the thinner plastic carry bags while the thicker ones and plastics are allowed to be used. But this information is hidden in the government orders and not given much publicity that the common man is getting frightened by the sight of any plastics. His fears are indeed genuine because he is not sure how the local policeman would act or react while seeing a piece of plastic in some one's possession !

But allowing the the thicker plastics perhaps would be a boon to the petrochemical giants. Now their tonnage is bound to increase ! It is not yet clear whether the authorities want the citizens to wash their thicker poly bags again and again and use it till they are worn out ! They are also not telling what to do with the thicker worn out pieces of those plastics !

While all these are happening, I am surprised at the silence of the world leaders in plastic production, the petrochemical giants! It clearly shows that they are not affected by these bans ! Even in India, the projected consumption of plastics is continuously on the rise ! ( Read the wikipedia article here !)

The average life span of a plastic item is about 8 years. That means the billions of tonnes of plastics that are manufactured by using petroleum as the starting raw material become a waste material in about 8 years time.

This poses two kinds of problems.

Firstly,  the scarce hydrocarbon petroleum reserves are consumed for the production of plastic materials. Secondly, the used plastics become non-biodegradable polymer wastes.

But they also serve some very useful functions during its life span. Modern packaging industry depends totally on plastic products. A good number of industrial equipment resisting corrosion are also made of plastic materials. Modern automobiles, airplanes, boats and ships depend heavily on plastic materials as their components. A good number of plastics are gets recycled to form inferior products ultimately becoming some sort of non usable waste material. 

But regrettably every usable material is bound to make some waste some point of time. Some wastes are biodegradable in a shorter period of time. But, till that time they are not fully degraded back to join the natural elements they are bound to cause some nuisance. Food is good, but spoilt food is not. Water is good, but spoilt water is not. Plastic is good, but spoilt plastic is not.

All waste materials can be used in some way or the other, provided we know how to do it properly. Thus waste food, waste water, waste soil, waste oil, waste biomass and waste plastics can all be processed for some usefulness. That is the universal law of nature. It there is a will, there is a way. That is as simple as that.

Are you scared of life because your body excretes all that waste materials every day ? Haven't you devised methods and means to tackle that problem ? Will you stop eating food and drinking water because that produce noxious wastes to come out of your body ? You will not. Then, why to ban these carry bags made of plastics ? Are we so underdeveloped that we can not develop a system of collecting and processing these waste plastics ? No, never.

Then what is the problem ?

No problem technically. There are many ways of tackling the problem. There are even ways by which the plastic waste processing would become profitable business options. Of course, no business is possible without administrative blessings by those who rule !

For that matter, 99 % of the cities of India have no solid waste management systems, what to talk about the plastic wastes. Technically and technologically these are not big issues. But, administratively and politically they are !

Because administration and politics are not as simple as engineering and technology. They are not at all straight forward. Two plus two may not be four in these superior human disciplines!

It is very difficult to understand. Have you now understood why there are not many institutions that teach politics and political administration ?

Did you get why the plastic carry bags got banned in the Indian cities ?


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