Production of Plastic Bags

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has asked plastic manufacturers to stop producing plastic bags with thickness below 40 microns. The previous norms had fixed the minimum thickness at 20 microns. One micron is 1/1000th of a millimetre, or 0.001 mm.

Welcoming the PCB notice, Chennai Corporation commissioner D Karthikeyan said the civic body would soon fix a minimum price for carry bags. The new rules specify that no carry bag should be given free by shops to customers.

While TNPCB estimates that 6% of the 3,500 tonnes of solid waste generated in the city is plastic, a preliminary survey by the Central Pollution Control Board in 63 cities had found that it is 10.4% in Chennai.

The Union ministry of environment and forests issued a notification on February 4 banning the use of carry bags made of virgin, recyclable or compostable plastics with less than 40 micron thickness.

This followed a directive from the Supreme Court. The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 bans storing, carrying, dispensing or packaging of foodstuffs in carry bags made of recyled plastics or compostable plastics.

"The board has asked environment engineeers in the districts to coordinate with the local administration and take necessary action against manufacturers who flout the norms," TNPCB additional chief environmental engineer S Balaji told TOI.

The new Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 replaces the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999. Under the new rules, carry bags made of recycled and compostable plastics should conform to the guidelines laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Carry bags should either be white or made using pigments and colourants which are in conformity with Bureau of Indian Standards. These pigments and colourants are primarily meant for use in plastics that are in contact with food stuffs, pharmaceuticals and drinking water.

"The board will not renew registration, unless the manufacturers adhere to the rules," Balaji said. As per official estimates, there are about 2,000 plastic manufacturing units in 25 cities and towns in the state, a majority of them producing carry bags. In Chennai, there are about 400 units, while Virudhunagar and Madurai have 300 units. More than 100 units each are located in Erode, Salem, Coimbatore, Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Thoothu-kudi, Dindigul, Sivaganga, and Ramanathapuram.

Underlining the need for safe collection and disposal of plastic waste, the rules specify that the municipal bodies should engage agencies or groups working in waste management including waste pickers. The rules also call for plastic waste collection centres with financial support of manufacturers in line with the principle of 'extended producer's responsibility.'

Julie Mariappan,TNN,Mar 4, 2011, 02.35am IST