Assessing Management of Plastic Straws Attached with used Beverage Cartons – A Case Study of 3 Metropolitan Cities of India
The global plastic production has increased from 1.5 Million Metric Tonnes (MMT) in 1950 to 359 MMT in 2018 and overall around 8.3 Billion Metric Tonnes of virgin plastics have been produced worldwide. Globally, only 9% produced plastic was recycled and 12% went into thermal recovery routes.
Indian plastic consumption is estimated to be 20 MMT by end of 2020with about 39% of total plastics being consumed for packaging. India’s growth rate of plastic consumption is one of the highest in the world, due to rising middle class income group.
In 2017-18, India generated 9.49 MMT of plastic waste and during 2016-17, about 5.5 MMT of plastics was reported to be recycled, involving direct employment to more than 0.6 million people and more than 01 million people indirectly, including waste pickers. This reflects a dependency between recycling and socio economic development, leading towards sustainability in use of plastics. Though, a very small portion of these plastics by weight, plastic straws have been in demand for its convenience to consumers in beverage consumption. These straws are widely known for providing hygienic way for beverage consumption. Further, though being 100% recyclable, plastic straws recyclability rates in India remain unknown. To ascertain this, a study was conducted involving physical surveys and analysis with used beverage carton (UBC) waste generator, waste collectors, waste dealer and recycling mills to identify fate of used straws sold with non-spirit portion packs (UBCs) in three major cities which are also sales hub for beverage cartons sold by Tetra Pak - Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai.
The barriers that hinder in moving more plastic straws into recycling chain and perception of stakeholders on fate of plastic straws (attached to UBCs) are highlighted in this paper. Study reveals that in about 40.8% cases in Bengaluru, 91.4% in Delhi and 30.2% in Mumbai, straws remain inside Tetra Packs (UBCs) and go to recycling/recovery unit. In Delhi and Mumbai plastic straws get recycled along with UBCs and in Bengaluru they are taken out to be sent for thermal recovery at a cement plant. This was a first of its kind of study to help formulate necessary plans and actions for improving the plastic straw collection and recyclability and guides how other producers can benefit from such studies. The study also reflected that effective behavioural change strategies through continuous and appropriate communication can help to maintain proper segregation of the plastic straws and thus eventually have better recycling of straws. Simultaneously, reducing the chain from collectors to recyclers with interventions of producer’s responsibility organisations and appropriate policy measures can help increasing price value of plastic straws and make them sustainable.