Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Remoulding the Global Plastics Treaty


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: OECD Global Plastic Outlook

Mains level: Global Plastic Treaty Needs Just Transition

Why in the news?

As discussions for an international legally binding treaty on plastic pollution continue, it is essential to consider how it can support a fair transition for informal waste collectors and recyclers.

Observations by the OECD Global Plastic Outlook

  • In 2019, global plastic waste production was 353 million tonnes, more than double the amount in 2000. This number is expected to triple by 2060. Only 9% of plastic waste was recycled in 2019.
  • 50% of plastic waste was sent to landfills, 19% incinerated, and 22% disposed of in uncontrolled sites or dumps.

Challenges due to Plastic Pollution:

  • Soil Pollution: Plastic waste can contaminate soil, reducing its fertility and affecting plant growth.
  • Marine Pollution: Plastic waste in oceans can harm marine life, alter habitats, and disrupt natural processes, making ecosystems less resilient to climate change.
  • Water Pollution: Plastic waste can contaminate groundwater and waterways, affecting human consumption and aquatic life.
  • Health Risks: 
    • Microplastics: Plastic waste can break down into microplastics, which can be ingested by humans and animals, potentially causing health problems.
    • Toxic Chemicals: Plastic products can leach toxic chemicals, such as phthalates and BPA, into food and water, posing health risks

Significance of Recognizing the Issue

  • Crucial role of recycling workers: Informal recycling workers recycled 85% of the 9% recycled plastic, playing a crucial role in global waste management.
  • Economic and Environmental Contribution: These workers alleviate municipal budgets, promote circular waste management solutions, and help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Their efforts significantly reduce plastic in landfills and prevent plastic leakage into the environment.
    • Despite their contributions, informal recycling workers are often overlooked and remain vulnerable. They face risks such as privatization of waste management, waste-to-energy projects, and exclusion from public policy interventions in plastic waste management.

Global Plastic Treaty Needs Just Transition

  • Need for Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC): Established in 2021, the INC aims to create a legally binding agreement to reduce plastic pollution. The INC has held several meetings, with the final one scheduled in South Korea.
  • Promoting Informal Workers Participation: The International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) emphasizes the need to support and integrate informal waste pickers into the treaty discussions. Their historical contributions should be acknowledged, their rights protected, and their perspectives included in policy implementation.
  • Building Clarity: There is no universally agreed-upon terminology for a just transition or a formal definition of the informal waste sector. Clarifying these definitions is essential.

India’s Voice is Important

  • India promotes repair, reuse, refill, and recycling without eliminating the use of plastics. This approach emphasizes country-specific circumstances and capacities.
  • India’s informal waste pickers are indispensable and remain central to the discussion on plastic waste management.
  • Rethinking EPR norms is crucial to integrating the informal worker cohort into the new legal framework.
  • As a key representative from the Global South, India’s perspectives and approaches are vital in shaping the Global Plastics Treaty.

Conclusion: By incorporating the perspectives of informal waste workers and ensuring their livelihoods are protected, the Global Plastics Treaty can embody social justice and equity principles, contributing to a sustainable future while leaving no one behind.

Mains PYQ:

Q What are the impediments in disposing of the huge quantities of discarded solid wastes which are continuously being generated? How do we remove safely the toxic wastes that have been accumulating in our habitable environment?  (UPSC IAS/2018)

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