New Delhi: In a bid to check the indiscriminate use of plastic, the Narendra Modi government has decided to do away with, in a phased manner across the country, the pouches used to pack milk, senior government officials familiar with the matter have told ThePrint.
The decision was taken Tuesday at a meeting chaired by Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying. Milk cooperatives have been asked by the ministry to phase out plastic packets, and a review meeting is planned to be held every 15 days to take stock.
A senior ministry official told ThePrint the government’s focus will be on de-incentivising the purchase of smaller milk packets across the country through three ‘R’s — “reduce, rebate and recycle”. Representatives from state and national milk cooperatives have agreed to follow the ministry’s line of action.
To begin with, the milk cooperatives have been asked to reduce the rates of the larger one-litre packets by up to Rs 2, and at the same time, increase the price of the smaller half-litre packets.
“This will discourage the purchase of multiple plastic milk packets,” a ministry official, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint.
Customers will be encouraged to return the plastic milk packets to their suppliers, who will in turn take them back to the cooperatives for recycling.
Milk producers will give a cashback, varying between 50 paise and Re 1, to customers who give back the used plastic packets to their suppliers.
As part of the third step, the plastic will be sent for recycling, which can be used to make granules for use in the construction of roads.
“The onus for recycling the plastic milk packets will be on the milk cooperatives, as they have been instructed to use the same logistics chain by which they deliver the milk to garner back the used packets and then send it to the firms who will recycle it further,” said a second ministry official.
Cut plastic use in half
Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, told ThePrint that the government aims to cut plastic milk packet waste to half by October 2019.
“The waste from Amul and Mother Dairy plastic milk packets has choked the drains of Delhi,” he said.
According to department officials, the decision will be implemented in metropolitan cities first. In the long term, officials said, the ministry also plans to replace all plastic milk packets with glass bottles.
“This may, however, increase the price of milk per litre by Rs 4-5. The government was planning to step in to give a subsidy of Rs 1-2 in this scheme. However, this scheme has been put on hold, bearing in mind that it may result in a spike in the inflation rate,” an official said.
India generates 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste daily
A Central Pollution Control Board study in 2018 said India generates approximately 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste daily. The study also said the largest contributor to plastic waste is the packaging sector.
At present, just 60 per cent of the total plastic waste generated is processed.
Maharashtra is one of the few states that banned the use of all kinds of plastic items in June 2018.
Railways also ban plastics
The Indian Railways have also decided to impose a blanket ban on single-use plastics and plastics thinner than 50 microns from 2 October, Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. The railway ministry has issued a directive to all its vendors and staff to use recyclable plastics.
The railways are planning to launch their own ‘Plastic-free Railways’ campaign that day, as well as an elaborate awareness campaign for passengers.
The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will now also be responsible for sending back plastic water bottles to their original manufacturers. The ministry has also issued orders to expedite the installation of plastic bottle crusher machines.
The Parliament complex is also set to become a ‘plastic-free zone’ after the Lok Sabha secretariat banned the use of plastic bottles and single-use plastics.
The human resource development ministry has also banned the use of single-use plastics in more than 2,000 Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Schools. It has also issued instructions to other educational institutions to take strong steps towards reducing plastic use.
(Additional reporting by Rahul Sampal)