Dubious ‘compostable’ bags flood Chennai stores

This short supply seems to have created a grey market, and several stores are seeing these ‘compostable bags’ as an ideal replacement to banned polythene covers.

Published: 12th January 2019 05:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th January 2019 05:26 AM   |  A+A-

One such ‘compostable’ bag | DEBADATTA MALLICK

Express News Service

CHENNAI: City residents have embraced the ban on single-use plastic products with open arms, but the menace is threatening to resurface as unapproved bags, claiming to be made from 100 per cent compostable material, are flooding city stores. Businesses were groping in the dark, looking for alternatives as the supply of eco-friendly products did not meet the demand in the market.

This short supply seems to have created a grey market, and several stores are seeing these ‘compostable bags’ as an ideal replacement to banned polythene covers. The problem is, the biodegradable properties of these bags are yet to be fully ascertained. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has sent samples to Central Institute for Plastic Engineering and Technology (CIPET) for testing.  

The Board’s chairman Shambu Kallolikar told Express that authorities had stumbled upon a few brands marketing and selling compostable bags in Chennai claiming to have CPCB certificate and some without the mandatory certificate.

“We have sent both samples to CIPET for testing, which will tell whether these bags contain any non-biodegradable compounds like polymer,” he said.

“Chennai Corporation is authorised to seize compostable bags without CPCB registration number printed on it,” said the CPCB chairman. 

When Express scouted the city, a prominent textile store in T Nagar was giving customers plastic bags, and the fine print read: “This is not a plastic bag. It’s made out of 100% compostable organic compounds derived from starch. Tested at CIPET vide test No. 58908”. 

However, the bag does not give details of the manufacturer and is not certified by the CPCB. Kovai Pazhamudir, a supermarket chain, was found using compostable bag manufactured by M/s Mainetti India Pvt Ltd located in SIPCOT industrial park in Sriperumbudur in Kancheepuram. However, this bag has the details of CPCB registration number, which was confirmed by the TNPCB officials. 

“Still, samples were sent to CIPET for reconfirmation. Company told us that this bag will biodegrade in 180 days in natural environment conditions,” a senior TNPCB official said. As per the CPCB website, there are only 17 companies which have obtained a certificate after passing CIPET test to manufacture compostable bags. Of 17, two are from Tamil Nadu. However, to sell the products the companies have to register with respective pollution board and submit a proposal under Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR). Kallolikar said an expert committee headed by S Selvan, Additional Chief Environmental Enginner of TNPCB, will look into each of proposals from different entrepreneurs, claiming to be eco-friendly. 

“They will give a report, which will be placed before the steering committee headed by the Chief Secretary. We do not want plastic bags to resurface on city roads and bust bins even if they are compostable. The government order bans any single use and throw-away plastic bags,” he said. On concern of the industry that it takes six months to get CPCB certificate from CIPET, Kallolikar said a special request has been made to CIPET to fast-track the test results.

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