Manufacturers are responsible for packaging too

A small effort is starting to push manufacturers to keep recycling in mind while packaging their products. And consumers can help too.

25 students of class VI and VII, Kumaran’s School, wrote to the Consumer Services Manager of the snacks company Frito-Lay, telling him what they thought of the packaging that the chips came in. They each posted a Lays chips packet back to the company along with the letter. This was done as a part of their school nature club extracurricular activity. They called this campaign "SEALED: Yours Truthfully" which taught them about the EPR (Extended Producers Responsibility) Law.

Post cards by students of Kumarans School (State Board) to Frito-Lay. Pic: Shamala Kittane

The recently amended Plastics (Manufacture, Usage and Waste Management) Rules – 2011 states that manufacturers are responsible for the plastic manufactured till it reaches its "end of life". When the consumer discards the packet, the product has reached its "End of life". All plastics that cannot be recycled (all multilayered plastics with the silver lining and bright colours) should go back to the manufacturer.

EPR ensures clean environmental process to be adopted both at the manufacturing end and when the product is disposed. This is to ensure manufacturers start using plastics that can be reused or recycled (using CPCB certified materials and colours) rather than design products for landfill, using cheap, thin, multilayered plastics.

BBMP estimates around 558 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in Bangalore per day. (See: ISWM, 2012, BBMP and SWM, 2008, BBMP) The IISc report, "Towards a sustainable waste management system for Bangalore" says only 21.27% of Bangalore’s dry waste is recyclable. This of course ends up in landfills and retards decomposition rate of organic waste that it gets mixed with.

SAAHAS, a local NGO working in the area of SWM, wrote to the four manufacturers of multi-layered plastics, with KSPCB’s support, seeking their co-operation in following The Plastics (Manufacture, Usage and Waste Management) Rules, 2011.

Brittania Industries Limited and Tata Chemical Ltd responded. Brittania said that they intend to tie up with MK Aromatics to conform with the EPR rules. Brittania is not planning to redesign its packaging by using material that are environmentally friendly but instead will outsource its waste to be handled by another private firm.

This initiative by SAAHAS is in its early stages and yet to gain momentum. But there are examples of companies that do their bit in helping the city manage its waste.

Responsible producers

Nandini milk packets are sought after by the recyclers. Earlier each household diligently rinsed milk packets, dried them and handed them over to recyclers. These are good quality plastics that have high recyclable value. But nowadays, Nandini packets like any other are turning up in garbage heaps that ragpickers dig out, shake off the muck and put them in their bags. Also as Nandini is coming up with more products, their standards of packaging are falling as well.

A few privately owned companies are making a deliberate choice of implementing EPR at the manufacturing end : Krya, a chennai based company, says they will ensure, all packaging waste generated by their detergent product can be easily sent for recycling by the consumers. TerraEarth foods is another retailer, conscious about what they use for packaging their food.

Marking or Labelling:
(a) each plastic carry bag and multilayered plastic pouch or sachet shall have
the following information printed in English or in local language,
(i) name, registration number of manufacturer and thickness in case of carry
(ii) name and registration number of the manufacturer in case of multilayered
plastic pouch or sachet.
(b) each recycled carry bag shall bear a label or a mark " recycled" as shown
below and shall conform to the Indian Standard : IS 14534: 1998 titled as
Guidelines for Recycling of Plastics , as amended from time to time;
(c) each carry bag made from compostable plastics shall bear a label "
compostable" and shall conform to the Indian Standard : IS/ISO 17088: 2008
titled as Specifications for Compostable Plastics;
(d) retailers shall ensure that plastic carry bags and multilayered plastic pouch
or sachet sold by them are properly labelled as per stipulations under these
Source: Plastics (Manufacture, Usage and Waste Management) Rules, 2011

Navadarshanam (a self help group based in Gumalapuram Village, Tamilnadu) with health products’ counters across Bangalore also encourages its customers to return their glass bottles for reuse. Although the effort is small, it is one of the few initiatives in the city where the product (after use) goes back to the producer.

What can we do

EPR is a law that is yet to be enforced. And in the meanwhile, as consumers this is how we can help :

1) Check for the ‘type of plastic’ marking/labeling on the plastic wrap. This rule has been a part of the "Plastics (Manufacture, Usage and Waste Management) Rules, 2009 so ideally all plastic packaging should carry this. All multilayered plastics (with the metallic coating inside) belong to the ‘OTHER’ category.

2) You can choose to buy plastics that are thick and transparent which suggest they are easy to recycle (accepted by recyclists locally). Coloured plastics especially contain pigments made from heavy metals like Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Cobalt, etc. which are highly toxic in nature. Recycling such plastics with contaminants become difficult since each of these other elements will need to be treated differently else they would leave behind undesirable final products. Additional technologies and resources will be required to separate multilayered plastics. End of Waste Criter
ia for Waste Plastic for Conversion, IPTS, Seville, Spain
is a comprehensive report on "End of waste" criteria that considers both manufacturing and the recycling processes of materials.

3) You could even call up the product manufacturer’s consumer cell and question them about their packaging. If many of us did this. it’ll send a strong signal to them.

Companies need to think about manufacturing healthy products as well as the health of our environment.The two are closely connected. If every company included protecting our environment also as the part of their profit making agenda then we wouldn’t need huge amount of resources — water, power, chemicals etc. spent in making and recycling bad products.

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