Kerala's 'Nava Keralam' campaign struggles to halt single-use plastic influx

According to sources, the LSGD is gearing up to tie up with the motor vehicle department and police department to prevent the flow of banned plastic products to the state.
Representative image
Representative image

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Despite entering its second year, the Malinya Muktham Nava Keralam campaign is facing challenges in curbing the influx of banned single-use plastics into the state. Launched to transform Kerala into a garbage-free state, the campaign is yet to take any significant step to curb the availability of banned single-use plastics.

Interestingly, the state government had banned the manufacture, sale, storage and transportation of single-use plastic in January 2020 even before the Government of India brought the nationwide ban on 19 single-use plastic items, including plates, cups, straws, trays, and polystyrene on July 1, 2022.

The aggressive campaign launched by the Local Self Government Department (LSGD) has failed to curb the flow of single-use plastic to the state. In connection with the campaign, the LSGD has formed special enforcement squads to prevent various violations relating to waste management. As per estimates, the state generates around 633 tonnes of plastic waste per day at a rate of 18.5gm of plastic per person every day.

During 2023-24, the Clean Kerala Company Ltd (CKCL) lifted around 47,548.701 tonnes of non-biodegradable waste from across the state. It is learned that lack of border checking and enforcement activities are the reasons for the unabated flow of banned single use plastic to the state.

Though the campaign is nearing its target of achieving 100 per cent door-to-door waste collection, the persistence of single-use plastics in the state underscores the difficulty in achieving the campaign’s goals. According to officials, the LSGD has built a solid system during the first year of the campaign for scientific and sustainable waste management.

Representative image
With new goals, ‘Malinya Muktham Nava Keralam’ enters second year

“This year, our aim is to make the activities of the enforcement squads more effective. We didn’t get the assistance from the police as expected. There are cognizable offenses related to waste management, including polluting waterbodies and as per law, the police can arrest the violator from the spot. We have learned the shortcomings from the initial year of the campaign and all those things will be fixed now,” said an official source.

According to sources, the LSGD is gearing up to tie up with the Motor Vehicle Department and Police department to prevent the flow of banned plastic products to the state. Executive director U V Jose of Suchitwa Mission told TNIE that the LSGIs and the enforcement squads will tighten its noose on wholesale dealers in the state distributing single-use plastic and banned items. “The state managed to curb the use of single-use plastic until before Covid-19. After the pandemic, the usage of these items has increased exponentially. One of our key priorities now is to curb the flow of these banned items to the state,” said U V Jose.

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) India coordinator K N Shibu said that the ban by the Centre is ineffective across the country because of conflicting policies of the Central government. “The export of plastic is still happening and the Centre is allowing new investments from such companies. The ban remains ineffective and the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has not been properly implemented in the country,” said K N Shibu. He added that the availability of alternative items is yet to be made available.

“The government is yet to come up with interventions to fix the price gap between alternative items and single use plastics,” said Shibu K N.

Banned items

  • Garbage bags (plastic) except for Bio-medical wastes

  • Non-woven bags, plastic flags

  • Pet bottles of drinking water of capacities less than 500 ml

  • Plastic-coated items like paper carry bags, bowls, paper cups

  • Plastic-coated leaves used as plates

  • Plastic packets in retail outlets

  • Plastic sapling bags

  • Plastic table spread

  • Plastic water pouches, non-branded plastic juice packets

  • Earbuds

  • Balloon sticks

  • Candy and icecream sticks

  • Cutlery items - plastes, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, tays

  • Sweet boxes

  • Cigarette packs

  • PVC banners under 100 microns

  • Polystyrene for decoration

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