Indian Railways to ban the single use of plastic materials. - Seeker's Thoughts

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Indian Railways to ban the single use of plastic materials.

The Indian Railways has decided to enforce a ban on single-use plastic materials on its premises, including trains, with effect from October 2, 2019.

While, the world has been facing a lot of trouble due to plastic, which impacts on the soil and ocean. Eventually, the plastic pollution grabbed the attention world-wide, and governments have decided to tackle the pollution.

Indian railways are one of the biggest industries which carry millions of people in a day. That certainly includes a higher number of plastic bottles at stations. Therefore, to tackle the problem of plastic bottles, India Railways has started the installation of 1853 plastic water bottles crushing machines at 360 major stations in the first phase. 

Not only that Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Development Corporation (IRCTC) has to implement the return of plastic drinking bottles as a part of Extended producer Responsibility.

General Managers of Zonal Railways and Production Units were told to encourage all railway vendors to avoid the use of plastic carry bags.

Railway employees were also advised to reduce, reuse and refuse plastic products and to use inexpensive reusable bags to reduce plastic footprint.

Why the use of plastic is harmful?

Plastic is a material made to last forever; it means plastic used by our great great- grandfather must be still existing somewhere on earth.

33% percent of all plastic – water bottles bags and straws- are used just ones and thrown away. Plastic cannot biodegradable; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Use plastic can have severe effects on human health

According to the new report authored by the Centre for International Environment Law (CIEL), Earthwork, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and other combined revealed that plastic is a human health crisis hiding in plain sight.

Researched that exposes the distinct toxic risks plastic to human health at every stage of the plastic lifecycle, from the extraction of fossil fuels to consumer use to disposal and beyond.

Human health impacts occur at every stage of the plastic lifestyle: from wellhead to refinery, from store shelves human bodies, and from waste management to ongoing impacts of microplastics in the air, water, and soil.

At every stage of its lifecycle, plastic poses distinct risks to human health, arising from both exposures to plastic themselves and associated chemicals. People worldwide are exposed to multiple stages of this lifecycle.

Fossil feedstocks for plastic, which releases an array of toxic substances into the air and water, including those with known health impacts like cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and impairment of the immune system.

Refining and production of plastic resins and addictive, which releases carcinogenic and other highly toxic substances into the air, with effects including impairment of the nervous system, reproductive and developments problems, cancer, leukemia, and genetic impacts like low birth weight.

Consumer products and packaging which can lead to ingestion and/or inhalation of microplastic particles and hundreds of toxic substances. 

Such as lead and mercury, acid gases and particulate matter, which can enter the air, water, and soil causing both direct and indirect health risks for workers and nearby communities;

Fragmenting and microplastics, which enter the human body directly and lead it an array of health impacts (including inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis) that are liked to negative health outcomes ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer and autoimmune conditions.

Cascading exposure as plastic degrades, which further leach toxic chemicals concentrated in plastic into the environment and human bodies and ongoing environmental exposures as plastic contaminates and accumulates in food chains through agriculture soil terrestrial and aquatic food chains and the water supply creating new opportunities for human exposure.

How countries trying to cut down the use of plastic?


Countries around the world trying to cut down on throwaway plastic shopping bags, Bangladesh is hoping to cash in on an alternative: plastic-like bags made from jute, the plant fiber used to produce burlap bags.

Bangladesh is the world’s second-biggest producer of jute after India, though the so-called “golden fiber” – named for its color and its once-high price- has lost its sheen as demand has fallen.

Bangladesh is now producing 2,000 of the bags a day on an experimental basis, and the government approved about US$900,000 in funding from Bangladesh’s own climate change trust fund to help pave the way for large-scale production of the bags.

Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ban the use of plastic and polythene bags, in 2002, in an effort to stop them from collecting in waterways and on land-though the ban has had little success.

Canada, Vancouver: “Vancouver became the first major Canadian city to ban plastic straws, in a move towards banning all solid waste by 2040. According to a statement, the motion passed by city council also bans the distribution of foam cups and takeout containers, and will come into effect on June 1, 2019.”

Costa Rica: “Costa Rica is taking dramatic action against plastic waste with a plan to ban all single-use plastic by 2021. This includes straws, bottles, cutlery, cups, and bags.”

Great Britain: “The government has announced its intention to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds at the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit” (announced April 18, 2018).

Greece, Sikinos: “The Island of Sikinos will be the first to ban the use of plastic straws this summer, in a bid to protect the marine environment in the Cyclades archipelago.” (Announced May 2018)

Guatemala, San Pedro La Laguna: “San Pedro La Laguna law 111-2016 became effective in January. It prohibits plastic bags and straws, Styrofoam containers and all packaging materials made of polystyrene.”

India, New Delhi: “This massive city in India, home to over 20 million people, took a major step toward helping the planet when it banned all forms of single-use plastic in 2017.”

Scotland, Glasgow: Glasgow City Council will stop the use of plastic straws in all city-operated properties, including museum cafes, offices, schools, sports centers, and city chambers. The policy came into effect at the end of February 2018. 

Seychelles: “Seychelles has banned the importation of single-use plastic straws, said a top official of the department of environment…Retailers have been given to January 2019 to use their existing stock.” (Announced June 8, 2018)

Switzerland, Neuchatel:  “Neuch√Ętel looks set to become the first city in Switzerland to outlaw the use of plastic straws in cafes from 2019, following a global trend to reduce plastic waste…The ban could come into force on January 1 next year.”

Taiwan: “As of 2018, food and beverage stores such as fast-food chains must stop providing plastic straws for in-store use. From 2020, free plastic straws will be banned from all food and beverage outlets. From 2025, the public will have to pay for takeaway plastic straws, and a blanket ban is to be imposed in 2030.”

European Union: “Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.” (Implemented January 16, 2018)

“The European Commission proposed on May 2018 new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.”

United States of America:

California, San Francisco: As of May of 2016 “The Board of Supervisors introduced new legislation that would ban the distribution of plastic straws and some other non-biodegradable odds and ends, in another City Hall drive to clean up San Francisco’s chronic trash problem.” Many cities in California have pending plastic straw legislation. Cities such as Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley.

Hawaii: “Hawaii Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Food Industry Association use to oppose Senate Bill 2285, which would ban the use of plastic straws throughout the state and slap offenders with fines as well as community service, namely trash details in littered public spaces… Yet several such establishments on Hawaii Island are nonetheless transitioning away from traditional plastic straws, despite expenses, to compostable paper straws.”

New Jersey:  “Jersey City and Hoboken — as well as Shore towns like Long Beach, Belmar, and Point Pleasant Beach — have all banned single-use plastic bags. Teaneck, Longport, and Ventnor each have put a 5- or 10-cent fee on plastic bags.”

New Mexico: “A new push to usher plastic straws out in the capital city is gaining steam as Santa Fe City Council is now weighing a potential resolution in support of the idea.”

New York: In May 2018, Councilman Rafael Espinal has put forth a bill that would ban the use of plastic straws restaurants throughout New York City. “More than 60 restaurants here have already gone straw-free. The ban, if passed, would be enforced by the city departments of consumer affairs, sanitation, and health. Violators could face fines starting at $100.”

South Carolina: “South Carolina’s fourth-largest city has decided to prohibit most single-use plastic bags, foam food containers and more, setting up a potential showdown with state lawmakers…The town’s ban would take effect in a year, and its reach extends beyond grocery store bags and takeout clamshells. The sale of polystyrene or plastic foam coolers and packing peanuts would also be prohibited. Plastic straws would be a no-no.”

Washington: “Seattle is set to enact a ban on plastic straws and utensils.” This was originally put in place September of 2017 but was enacted this past month.ternatives to plastic

1. Plant-based plastics

A.K.A. Bioplastics are made from a variety of sources such as corn, which is broken down into PLA, or polylactic acid. This is incredibly sustainable to produce, as it’s made from the waste products from the production of corn – which is also easy to grow. PLA can be used to make drinks bottles, various food-grade containers, as well as films. Eco-heroes Innocent is now making their bottles from 15% PLA.

2. Mushroom root

With Mycelium (mushroom roots, funnily enough, the same stuff that Quorn is made from), the packaging is literally grown. Ecovative Design gathers agricultural waste, mix it with the mycelium in molds and then the packaging quite literally grows. 

3. Bagasse

Bagasse is a by-product of sugarcane processing. Due to its malleability and stickiness, it can be easily molded into packaging suitable for food delivery and food service – similar to polystyrene. Unlike polystyrene, it’s certified biodegradable and compostable and is a by-product, much more sustainable to produce.

4. Seaweed water bubbles

The UK start-up Ooho have created an edible (and by default, biodegradable) water bubble made of seaweed. Their aim is “to provide the convenience of plastic bottles while limiting the environmental impact”.

They have developed manufacturing processes that make this both more efficient and cheaper than producing plastic bottles. The process produces 5x less CO₂ and uses 9x less Energy vs PET production.

5. Shower-friendly paper

Beauty behemoth L’Oreal has just launched an eco-beauty range, Seed Phytonutrients. The products themselves sound lovely (made from 93-100% natural ingredients, cruelty -free, paraben-free, etc.) but the packaging is where the real innovation is.

Made by Ecologic, the outer card is recycled, recyclable, compostable, glue-free and water-resistant. The inner liner is made with recyclable plastic and uses 60% less material than regular plastic bottles.

6. Stone paper and plastic

It might surprise you to know that paper can be made out of stone. It certainly did me. I have a stone paper notebook and it has the most beautiful smooth finish, almost cool to the touch. This incredible innovation has several possible packaging applications. 

It can be used as a paper or plastic alternative, being printable, recyclable, water-proof… and its eco-credentials look pretty good too. 

It is made from calcium carbonate, which is one of the Earth’s most abundant resources and its production process uses less water, has a lower carbon footprint, and is more energy-efficient than regular paper production.

Stone paper can also be used to make FDA certified food-grade packaging. This can be used for making paper (supermarket singlet) bags, takeaway food cartons, greaseproof paper wraps as well as Ziplock bags.

7. Palm leaves

Holy Lama uses palm leaves from the areca palm to create the oyster-like cases for their handmade soaps. The leaves fall naturally from the areca palm, then they are collected and molded into the desired shape. 

Brilliantly environmentally friendly as they use a natural waste product of the areca palm and the final packaging product is biodegradable.

A Berlin start up Arekapak is developing palm leaf packaging for food such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts.

8. Corn starch and sorghum loose fill

EcoFlo loose fill is made from corn starch and can be used the same way as regular polystyrene loose fill. This eco version – which can also be made from sorghum (a crop similar to popcorn) – is biodegradable, odor-free, and maybe best of all; static-free!

9. Edible six-pack ring

Saltwater Brewery in America has developed a material for their six-pack rings which is not only biodegradable and compostable but also edible. Made of barley and wheat remnants which are a by-product of the brewing process, if it’s dropped in the ocean now, this packaging will actually benefit the sea life!

10. Silber board – metalized paper

Developed as a sustainable alternative to traditional composite metalized papers and boards, Silber board is both recyclable and compostable. The paperweight can be used for food-on-the-go and labeling, the card weight can be used for all kinds of boxes – for food, household goods, pharmaceuticals… etc. etc.

11. Wood pulp cellophane

Nature Flex is the sustainable younger brother of cellophane, which is made from FSC certified wood pulp, and certified biodegradable. It comes as Uncoated, which is perfect for chocolate and confectionery as well as household items; Semi-Permeable, which can be used for fresh produce and dairy; and Barrier for bakery, snacks, coffee, tea, chocolate, confectionery as well as home and personal care items.

12. Prawn shell plastic bags

Scientists around the world are developing plastic alternatives out of the most unlikely things. One of these is chitosan, which is made from prawn and crab shells, which are usually a waste product. No-one has commercialized this technology yet – but the material has the potential to replace plastic in packaging for food and drinks.

13. Milk plastic

Casein – the protein found in milk – has been used to make plastic for over a century, but it went out of fashion in favor of the more hardwearing, long-lasting petrochemical variety. Lactips have developed tech that combines the protein with clay and a reactive molecule (glyceraldehyde) which make the plastic much stronger, but still biodegradable. 

Lactips already produce milk plastic for the detergent industry (you know those little bubbles you pop in the dishwasher?) and now are looking to move into the food and beverage industry, as well as pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals.

Use of plastic waste

Plastic roads

All around the world, entrepreneurs have started paving roads with plastic waste.

It sounds like a compelling idea — taking the plastic waste that’s contaminating the environment and turning it into asphalt that, in turn, conserves natural resources.

But environmental activists have raised red flags, saying that as these roads wear down, they release fine plastic dust into the atmosphere that can cause harm to animals and even humans.

Microplastics already pervade the air, bodies of water, and food sources. In fact, the average human ingests at least 70,000 microplastics annually.

Road construction is inherently harmful to the environment — it involves materials such as concrete and petroleum that are often extracted in unsustainable ways, and they continually erode and release harmful materials into the atmosphere.

Alternative: Construction advocates suggest recycling degraded roads to conserve natural resources, and some environmentalists encourage the adoption of solar panels on roads to at least cultivate clean energy.

Clothes made with “recovered” plastic

Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans. Marine animals, including whales and turtles, often consume this plastic by accident and become sick or die as a result.

In recent years, many multinational clothing brands have responded to the growing epidemic of plastic waste by incorporating recovered plastic into their clothing lines.

Overall, these efforts help to clean up the oceans, which is undoubtedly a good thing, but they end up releasing microplastics and other toxins into the environment over the long-term and also don’t do anything to break the reign of fast fashion, according to experts.

Since the fashion industry shifted toward a fast fashion model, it became immensely harmful to the global environment by consuming large amounts of resources, including water, and releasing harmful chemicals into the environment.

Alternative: Sustainable clothing advocates say that the best way to make the fashion industry more sustainable is for consumers and companies to invest in longer-lasting items made from sustainable materials that would lead to less clothing is bought overall.

Some brands putting sustainability at the canter of their business model include Everlane, Patagonia, and Eileen Fisher.

1.    Biodegradable single-use water bottles


Nearly half a trillion plastic water bottles are purchased and consumed each year, and fewer than 7% are recycled into new water bottles.

In recent years, scientists have been racing to find an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles and have come up with some prototypes, often derived from plants that supposedly degrade in natural environments and pose no risk to animals.

But there are three problems with these efforts.

First, these bottles can often only degrade in highly controlled environments.

“You essentially need an environment that has high enough heat and moisture levels that allow microbes to break down the polymer, but outside of a carefully controlled environment, that degradation may not and most likely will not occur.

These bottles also often contain plastic linings or chemicals that are unable to naturally degrade

Plastic attracts other pollutants.

Chemicals in plastic which give them their rigidity or flexibility (flame retardants, bisphenols, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals) are oily poisons that repel water and stick to petroleum-based objects like plastic debris.  So, the toxic chemicals that leach out of plastics can accumulate on other plastics.  This is a serious concern with increasing amounts of plastic debris accumulating in the world's oceans. 

Plastic poisons our food chain.

Even plankton, the tiniest creatures in our oceans, are eating microplastics and absorbing their hazardous chemicals.  The tiny, broken down pieces of plastic are displacing the algae needed to sustain larger sea life who feed on them.

Plastic threatens wildlife.

Wildlife become entangled in plastic, they eat it or mistake it for food and feed it to their young, and it is found littered in even extremely remote areas of the Earth.  In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.

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