Burning of plastic waste on waysides and public spaces has become a common sight in the city which is reeling under a severe garbage disposal crisis.
With the Vilappilsala solid waste treatment plant remaining closed for over a fortnight, many city residents are now resorting to burning accumulated waste, including plastic waste, which has in turn raised serious environmental and health concerns. According to environment experts, burning chlorinated plastic releases harmful dioxin gas which can be carcinogenic.
Although the city Corporation had directed people to landfill biodegradable waste as a temporary measure, no clear direction had been given on disposal of plastic wastes. Corporation authorities had instead asked people to collect and stack up plastic waste in houses until the Vilappilsala crisis was resolved.
However, with the garbage disposal crisis stretching on, stacking up plastic waste in their homes has become a huge menace for many city residents.
" The reason why we are burning plastic is because we don’t know what else to do,’’ said a housewife. ``How long can we stock up plastic waste in our house. Every time you go shopping you come back with plastic. Almost all food items come in plastic packets. To stock up every biscuit wrapper and milk cover in our house for days on is impossible,’’ she said.
"The normal household plastic waste does not contain high level of chlorine. For the same reason it is not as toxic as burning heavy plastic materials like PVC (poly vinyl chloride) material. Still, it will lead to pollution, which should be avoided,’’ said mayor K. Chandrika.
She said that although the Corporation had initiated steps to install plastic shredding units in two places in the city, both the projects had to be temporarily shelved due to public opposition. Ms Chandrika pointed out that Corporation officials who had gone to inspect the site for setting up a plastic shredding unit inside the Pappanamcode industrial estate faced protest from local people.
"Another place identified for the purpose was Manacaud market. But there also the ward councillor opposed the project. I don’t understand why they are opposing a plastic shredding unit which has no issues of pollution or anything,’’ she said.
"A private company had expressed its willingness to take away the plastic waste if we could process it by shredding it to granules. However, since none of the plastic shredding units could be operationalised this did not work out,’’ Ms Chandrika said.
Meanwhile, the temporary solution of disposing biodegradable waste by land-filling is also heading to another crisis. Most sites identified for land-filling have reached a saturation level. Ms Chandrika said that after a few days, no more waste can be dumped in these sites.
"Scarcity of land has always been an issue in our city. The sites where Kudumbasree Clean Well units are dumping wastes collected from houses and shops have surpassed their saturation point. This practice cannot go on for more than four or five days now,’’ the mayor said.
Corporation health standing committee chairperson S. Pushpalatha said that the Corporation will ask the state government to provide more revenue land to dump biodegradable waste.
"All we can do now is seek the support of the government. We have also expedited the source level garbage treatment project. However, that will still take some time. Things will only get worsened if the agitation is not stopped immediately,’’ she said.