New carry bags claim place left by much-maligned plastic

New carry bags claim place left by much-maligned plastic

New carry bags claim place left by much-maligned plastic

The once ubiquitous polythene bags have started disappearing from neighbourhood shops and markets in the city. Random raids and a squeeze on the supply chain have had a telling effect. So, when ‘plastic’ has suddenly become this dirty word and paper a sad alternative to foolproof packaging, what do people do?

Biodegradable plastics are the new buzzword. But will this pass the plastic ban test? It should, says a firm that has introduced in supermarkets what it claims to be a ‘100% compostable’ bag made from starch-based material. While this appeared first in 2011, a private university in Uttar Pradesh announced recently that it had developed a technology to make biodegradable plastic that can decompose within 60 days.

Citing Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, the state government had issued a plastic ban order on March 11. The ban applied to single-use and non-recyclable plastic products. Plastic manufacturers, led by Canara Plastics Manufacturers and Traders, had challenged the ban, but the High Court dismissed their petition.

The compostable bags, made by Greendiamz Biotech as TrueGreen, are now being used in big supermarkets and wholesale stores. Would it pass the plastic ban test? Confronted with this question, a top Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) official said they are yet to devise a mechanism to check biodegradable plastic. Besides, existing rules are not clear about the alternatives.

But Greendiamz contended that the material cannot even be categorised as plastic. Besides, the recently issued Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016, gazetted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change allowed the use of compostable bags and products. The provision of thickness is also not applicable to such products made from compostable materials, pointed out a Greendiamz official.

It is claimed that once the bags are used and disposed of, they can either decompose on their own or are broken down on coming into contact with the soil, humidity, water and micro-organisms in the environment. This process will be completed within 180 days, without leaving behind any toxic residue.

Bio-degradable plastic, as the name itself suggests, decomposes in nature with the active role of micro organisms - bacteria, fungi and algae. Corn starch is widely used as an additive to make plastic bio-degradable. As starch is an organic component, it decays when it comes into contact with organisms in nature, and makes the material porous.