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Menace of plastic waste

K. Manikandan
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Creating problem:Piles of plastic waste generated from a government liquor outlet.Photo: A. Muralitharan
Creating problem:Piles of plastic waste generated from a government liquor outlet.Photo: A. Muralitharan

K. Manikandan

The amount of plastic waste – disposable cups, empty water sachets and thin sheets – generated from bars attached to government liquor stores in the southern suburbs of Chennai has been causing acute problems to residents living in localities that are dotted with liquor outlets.

A few thousand plastic cups and several thousand empty water sachets are generated from each of the liquor outlets everyday.

The waste is dumped in vacant spots and public spaces, for instance, below the road-over-bridge in West Tambaram. They are also dumped in water channels on Mudichur Road. While some of the shops employ workers who collect these plastic wastes, selling them to scrap merchants for paltry sums, owners of most bars simply burn them in the dead of the night when the accumulated waste becomes a pile.

Dumped near houses

Residents of Chromepet, West Tambaram and Selaiyur, who suffer due to the haphazard disposal of plastic waste in open spaces near their houses complain that the problem has assumed unmanageable proportions.

The residents prefer not to be named, fearing retribution from owners, most of whom recruit young men who indulge in an offensive and objectionable behaviour if they dare to raise their voice against the menace.

Engineers of the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply said that in the case of hazardous waste, it was the responsibility of the waste generator to treat it and dispose it in a safe and proper manner.

In the case of generation of a huge quantity of plastic waste, it was also the responsibility of the waste generator to at least segregate the waste so that most of it could be recycled.

Norms not followed

However, norms were hardly followed nor were local bodies equipped with powers to pull up violators.

On an average, seven to 10 per cent of the total waste generated in each local body comprised of plastic waste, that was beyond the possibility of recycling as they would be mixed with wet and inert waste.

In village and town panchayats, where the quantity of waste generated per day is far less when compared to municipalities, the practice is non-governmental organisations or women self groups collect wastes at doorsteps and segregate the waste into pet bottles, dry sachets, milk covers and others.

They sell the piles to scrap merchants, earning a significant amount of money to their respective households.

In some town panchayats, the saleable plastic fetches even Rs. 15,000 a month.

With the permission from elected representatives and officials, the amount would be shared equally among those who are involved in collection and segregation of garbage.

In some parts of Tamil Nadu, an initiative to use shredded plastic waste in laying roads is still continuing, while it has been given up in the city’s suburbs, where the consumption and subsequent generation of plastic waste is on the rise .

Laying plastic roads

A stretch of the road leading to Tirusulam from Grand Southern Trunk Road was laid using plastic waste a few years ago, but since then, there has been no other initiative from the government agencies here.

Most of the liquor bars burn their piles

of plastic waste during night.

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