IT IS difficult to be constantly conscious of the steep environmental cost of a petite plastic straw nestled in the box of a packaged drink, an inconspicuous plastic carry bag, or a candy wrapper. These are things that we encounter every day, consume without a thought and then throw away. But in their case, “out of sight” does not mean “out of the ecosystem”.
The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, released on August 12 by the Union government, is aimed at tackling these silent rubble-makers. Through the amendment to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, the Centre by 2022 hopes to phase out 20 single-use plastic items that have low utility but entail a high environmental cost (see 'What will be banned', p25). A closer look however suggests several glaring shortcomings in the amended rules.
Single-use plastics are items that are primarily made from petrochemicals and are meant to be disposed of right after use—often, within minutes. There is enough evidence to suggest that they have a devastating impact on our oceans, our wildlife, and even on our health. Still, the new rules conveniently leave out several plastic items with high environmental impact, such as plastic bottles for food and nonfood applications, cigarette filters, multi-layered packaging as well as plastic films (see 'What the ban missed', p26). For instance, multilayer plastics that are majorly used for packaging, like plastic-based chips' packets with aluminium coatings, are often hard to recycle due to their multi-material composition. Plastic films, which are also being increasingly used for packaging, are so thin that they get easily mixed with household waste. Separating them is a complex process. These items thus never reach the recyclers, as the cost needed to treat them does not generate enough value.
One odd exemption from the latest ban is multi-layer plastics. India has been toying with the idea of phasing it out since 2009, the year the draft Plastic (Manufacture, Usage and Waste Management) Rules were introduced. These rule recommended restricting the use of multi-layer plastics as they are non-recyclable. The clause was, however, dropped when the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, was notified. A gradual phase-out of multi-layer plastic was reattempted through the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, wherein clause 9(3) advocated phasing out all multilayered plastics used for packaging in two years. This was again diluted by the Plastic Waste Amendment Rules, 2018, which suggested burning them for “energy recovery”.
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‘America's original social distancer'
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND LOCKDOWNS MADE DAVID GESSNER, PROFESSOR OF CREATIVE WRITING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA WILMINGTON, REVISIT HENRY DAVID THOREAU—THE 19 TH CENTURY AMERICAN NATURALIST, ESSAYIST, POET AND PHILOSOPHER WHO LIVED IN ISOLATION FOR TWO YEARS STARTING 1845. THOREAU SPENT HIS TIME GROWING HIS OWN FOOD, CONTEMPLATING AND WRITING. HIS STAY IN THE WOODS BY THE WALDEN POND IN CONCORD, MASSACHUSETTS, RESULTED IN HIS MOST-KNOWN WORK, WALDEN—A BOOK THAT DESCRIBES THE ACT OF LIVING DAY TO DAY AND IS CONSIDERED A CLASSIC ON NATURE WRITING AND INDIVIDUALISM. GESSNER COMPARES THOREAU’S SELF-IMPOSED ISOLATION TO HIS OWN FORCED SECLUSION DURING THE PANDEMIC IN HIS BOOK QUIET DESPERATION, SAVAGE DELIGHT TO CONCLUDE “JUST HOW INTENSELY RELEVANT THOREAU IS TO OUR TIMES”. EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK:
In absence of robust framework and infrastructure, segregation of domestic hazardous waste remains a distant dream for most Indian cities
States must contend with several production hurdles before they can roll out fortified rice as part of the Union government's plan to fight malnutrition
‘Reality is not as fixed as people like to think'
Humans pride themselves on the fact that they cannot just see and perceive what is around them but also analyse their observations and form definite conclusions. However, this ability to understand reality is not foolproof, say researchers from the University College of London, UK, in a recent preprint paper published in the online repository PsyArXiv. Through a series of experiments, the researchers have determined that people are often akin to mistaking their imagination for real-life perception. DAKSHIANI PALICHA speaks to lead author of the study NADINE DIJKSTRA about the potential implications of their findings. Excerpts:
The fading mirage of a TRIPS waiver
A year later, the proposal to lift WTO’s intellectual property blocks to making COVID vaccines has not inched forward
Many hues of haldi
Turmeric plays a prominent role not just in our kitchens, but in many auspicious rites and rituals as well
The pandemic years have witnessed a boom in the production and export of the humble underground stem called turmeric, along with a renewal of interest among the scientific community in the spice’s therapeutic qualities, especially against COVID-19. VIBHA VARSHNEY reports why inclusion of the household herb in our daily diet is a healthy idea
With the world having lost 14 per cent of its coral reefs in just one decade, a marine devastation seems imminent. But there may be some hope yet
The abnormally high rainfall in the final month of the rainy season has added to India's monsoon agony
BEYOND 100 DAYS
The national rural employment guarantee programme financially empowers village panchayats, thus making them an effective self-governing system