Descent into center of use of recycled plastic food containers worries experts | India News

MUMBAI: In a sudden but serious descent from its five-year stance on banning the transport of bags or products made from recycled plastic for food packaging, transport, storage and distribution, the government central recently amended its 2016 notification – to which two changes were made in March 2018 and August 2021 – to allow for the same.
Sub-rule (1), clause (b) of rule 4 of the 2016 Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, states that carrier bags or recycled plastic products must not be used for storage , transport, distribution or ready-to-use packaging. -eat or -drink food. The rules were changed on March 27, 2018 and more recently on August 12, 2021.
However, in a short period of time, another amendment to the PWM rules, 2021, was introduced on September 17, 2021, according to which carrier bags or recycled plastic products “may be used to store, transport, distribute or package. products ready to be used. eat or drink food ”. This, however, is subject to the appropriate standards and regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (34 of 2006), by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
A full U-turn by the Center on Using Recycled Plastic has shocked environmental experts and activists. They say such an authorization for food and drug packaging could pose a serious threat to human life as well as the environment, as the recycling process in India has largely not reached its current level. more pure.
Continuous recycling of plastic not only degrades its quality, but also brings potentially deadly toxic impurities to it, according to chemical engineering experts. Very recently, it was discovered that the burning of garbage (which mainly includes plastic bags and garbage) contributes to a serious threat of air pollution in Mumbai, Delhi and many other cities in the country, in addition to dust and vehicle emissions. Another study found that this polluted air was actually responsible for the worsening cases of Covid 19 in several residential areas of Mumbai.
“Such a blunt half-turn introduction can potentially take away the safety blanket for Indians and also cannot help keep the environment waste-free. Recycling means melting used plastic and reshaping it. And it can. be done several times for a plastic. There are many techniques for recycling – some systematically, others very roughly. With each heating cycle, there is some degradation of the plastic with the generation of contaminants or ‘impurities. In most cases, the contaminants are not even known. Therefore, there are no reliable test methods to detect and determine the impurities which can pose a serious threat to human life and the environment “Said Professor Vijay Habbu of the Institute of Chemical Technology. Professor DD Kale, former head of the Department of Polymer Sciences at ICT, commented It is alarming that this September 17th amendment actually removes some of the items that were banned as single-use plastics (such as cutlery and plates) in the previous August 12th amendment. ”
In India, environmentalists allege that the majority of the recycling industry has deployed very substandard recycling machines or processes that can potentially make recycled plastic more toxic in nature each time it is recycled with different chemicals. and additives. The nature and quantity of these impurities which enter them at each recycling vary according to the process implemented. More importantly, the cumulative effects of contaminants – when a plastic undergoes multiple recycling cycles – are not yet established. For example, what happens to the mechanical properties of plastic, its tendency to form microplastics, if it causes contaminants to leach, etc. While we already doubt the phthalates and bisphenol A in fresh PETs, then we have no control over the degradation of polymers in recycled plastics, they fear.
“Interestingly, there is currently no way to determine how much recycled plastic has been mixed with virgin plastic. This inability leaves room for misrepresentation. Also, if something goes wrong, there is no way to track the cause and do a reliable analysis. Therefore, worldwide, recycled plastics are not used in applications where human safety is involved, such as in the packaging of food and pharmaceuticals, ”said Prof Habbu.
Ravi Jashnani, chairman of the Maharashtra State Plastics Manufacturers Association, said news of such a notification had just arrived. “We need to study and understand in depth whether the government intends to use these products only for packaging or transporting clothing or even for everyday products. We will be able to comment officially once we understand the notification, ”he adds, noting that there is so far no such action from the government of Maharashtra.
Some manufacturers claim that new recycling technologies (eg chemical recycling) to make recycled plastics as pure as virgin (original) are being developed. However, they are all in their infancy, say experts and environmentalists. “This is the reason why even the EU and the US are moving slowly and in stages, and it is only by 2030 that they aim to achieve the use of 100% recycled plastics. In contrast, through this amendment to the PWM rules, India allowed 100 percent recycled plastics from 2021. Thus, by allowing the use of recycled plastics for food packaging, the amendment only exposes Indians to to health risks without reducing plastic waste a little, adds an expert.

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