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Plastics recycling - a new departure[continued]

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In Europe, the idea of Extended Producer Responsibility [EPR] is firmly taking root. You can click here to learn more about it, but simply put, with EPR "responsibility for product is broadened beyond the emissions and effluents generated by the extraction or manufacturing processes, to the management of the product once it is discarded." Designing products for true recyclability and manufacturers paying for the sound disposal of packaging are all concepts widely established there. In India, low costs of plastics have resulted in profligate use, growing markets and high profits. A disposal cost built into the product will deter irresponsible consumption.

There is hope in that, serious stake-holders like Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, are already beginning to face the issue realistically. Addressing Plastindia in 2001, he said, "Our 21st century value systems are providing a pride of place for ecology and environment. This is intensifying the environment protection related demands on the plastic industry...we must work closely with Municipal/State authorities on putting in place effective systems of waste management and recycling."

Citizens' role:

Despite such sound-bites, industry seldom budges unless nudged. The stakes are high. India will be the third largest plastics consumer --at over 12 million tonnes per annum-- by 2010, after the US and China [Source]. Concerned Indians must actively lobby for an EPR Act in India adapted from Europe's experience, which will levy a cess on the industry to pay for the intiatives that will make plastics environmentally manageable.

They will face a formidable, slick lobby which, while making all the right noises, will do all it can to keep its wallet tightly zipped. For example, the Indian Center for Plastics in the Environment, [ICPE] says its objective is "to help sustain an environment friendly image of plastics". Accordingly it runs suave ads in the media extolling plastics virtues. A visit to this link will reveal a mindset far from accepting any responsibility for cleaning up. There are even hints of collusion with the government. That suspicion was confirmed recently by the revelation of a secret dossier by Outlook magazine, indicating that the government is blind to the threat of plastic waste.

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