After the ban on single-use plastic in the state since 2016, over 2 lakh people have lost jobs directly, and the industry incurred a loss of Rs 800 crores so far. And over 200 single-use plastic manufacturing units have been shut down, says Vijayakumar, the president of the Karnataka State Plastic Association (KSPA), a body comprising representatives from various plastic industries across Karnataka.
The Association believes that increasing the thickness of single-use plastic materials is a better solution than banning them completely. It has recommended the same to the central government.
The problem with single-use plastic materials, according to the Association, is mainly associated with their disposal. Therefore, they believe, that increasing the thickness of the single-use plastics to 100 microns will encourage people to re-use those plastic items instead of disposing of them.
“The sachets of shampoos or food items, thin and tiny plastic bags and other substances are disposed of after usage. They are so tiny that they get blended with other waste that cannot even be picked up by rag pickers. These tiny sachets make the waste non-compostable, and it cannot even be segregated. Increasing the thickness of the materials helps rag pickers pick it up easily and segregate,” said Vijaykumar, President, Karnataka State Plastic Association. There are also chances that if the thickness of certain materials is increased, it will encourage people to re-use those items, he said.
He explained the technical problem s in the enforcement of the ban. “There is no proper definition given to single-use plastics in India, unlike developed countries. In Karnataka, as many as 17 products (single-use plastics) have been banned including cutlery, carry bags (less thick than 50 microns), cups etc. The single-use plastics have been banned without checking on the ground reality and feasibility including the current lifestyle.”
Vijayakumar argues that the energy required to produce 500 grams of paper (used to make carry bag) is 300 times more than that required for a plastic bag.
Besides, there is no sustainability. “A paper bag has a lot of disadvantages. It cannot withstand weight, gets easily spoilt when it rains and is not economical. Most of the substitutes for single-use plastics are not reusable,” added Vijaykumar.