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Karnataka’s persistent struggle with single-use plastic waste

By George George Idowu

Karnataka is a state located in India with an area of approximately 191,791 square kilometres (74,051 square miles). It is considered one of the sixth-largest states in India by area.

Seven years after Karnataka introduced the Plastic Waste Management Rules to combat single-use plastic pollution, the battle against plastic waste remains a significant challenge.

Since the implementation of the rules, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has recorded approximately 54,000 cases against illegal manufacturing units and the import of banned plastic materials.

The state’s policy-level intervention began in March 2016 with a ban on plastic carry bags, which was further reinforced by a nationwide ban introduced by the Centre in 2021.

Despite these measures, Karnataka generates an estimated 988.44 tonnes of plastic waste daily, amounting to 3.68 tonnes annually. Of this, only 74.2% (733.47 tonnes) is collected, and a mere 324.29 tonnes are processed.

Karnataka’s recycling infrastructure includes 143 units capable of recycling 2.10 tonnes of plastic annually, which constitutes 57.27% of the total plastic waste generated.

The state also disposes of non-recyclable plastic by sending it to cement factories as residue-derived fuel (RDF). In 2022-23, 31,000 tonnes of plastic were sent as RDF. However, the incineration of plastic, including in RDF, releases toxic chemicals harmful to both humans and animals.

The KSPCB’s enforcement efforts have been robust, with 53,698 cases filed for violations, including the use of plastic bags thinner than 75 microns. Additionally, 118 closure directions have been issued against non-compliant industrial units. Despite these efforts, single-use plastic persists as a widespread issue.

“We have seized 620 tonnes of banned plastic, which was shredded and sent for reprocessing.

“The BBMP and local bodies have imposed Rs 3.9 crore in penalties on violators, yet banned plastic remains a problem,” said KSPCB Member Secretary H.C. Balachandra.

The KSPCB also discovered that much of the banned plastic originates from neighbouring states, although tracing it back to specific manufacturers has proven difficult.

As Karnataka continues to grapple with the menace of single-use plastic, it highlights the ongoing need for stringent enforcement and greater public awareness to mitigate the environmental impact of plastic waste.

 

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