Plastic once released into the environment has a pernicious impact on biodiversity and life everywhere. In the sea, rivers and estuaries, lakes, farmland, commons, etc., and also in the far reaches of the Arctic or in the middle of oceans, we find plastic. In fact, Earth is being frighteningly addressed as “Planet Plastic” and the impacts are felt even in our food chain as the film “Plastic Cow” disturbingly documents.
In cities and villages in India it is quite common to find plastic being burnt inside homes, on farmland, on the streets, in landfills, and just about anywhere. Burning plastic releases a variety of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, several of which are highly carcinogenic and damaging to human health and environment.
While efforts to recover plastic once used are being made, the fact remains that more plastic is disposed recklessly than is recovered for reuse. The plastic that is not burnt easily finds its way into local streams, storm water drains, ponds, lakes, rivers, etc. It is widely experienced that this plastic clogs drains resulting in widespread flooding in urban areas, which in turn makes life miserable and results in destruction of life and property. The ease with which we use plastic is making it ubiquitous in our lives, and the extensive and heavy damage that the release of plastic into the environment causes should make us ponder about the use, particularly unnecessary use, of this material.
Karnataka State has been using paper based Excise Adhesive Labels (EAL) on IML bottles and tetra packs over decades now. A Technical Expert Committee of the Government of Karnataka in its October 2014 Report on Excise Adhesive Labels (EAL) recommended that “Hybrid Labels (paper based label with Hologram) are found to be superior to polyester based labels.” The same finding was arrived at again in another Technical Expert Committee Report of October 2017 where it was recommended “Hybrid labels (paper based label with Hologram) poses two important significant features of Intaglio Printing and Eco-friendly.” The second Committee also recommended that if there is a need to use polyester based labels then it should necessarily be of bio-degradable polyester.
These Committee Reports are in sync with the 11th March 2016 Order of Forest, Ecology and Environment Secretariat of Government of Karnataka wherein the manufacture and sale of a variety of plastics commonly used, such as flex, plastic bags, plastic plates, plastic cups, cling films, and plastic sheets irrespective of its thickness, was banned as it was “causing serious environmental hazards and affecting health of human beings as well as animals” besides the Order read that “it is observed that the plastic waste is also causing blockage of gutters, sewers and drains apart from resulting in pollution of water bodies in urban areas.”
Regardless of all these efforts to remove unnecessary use of plastics and their eventual disposal into the environment, the Karnataka Excise Department has issued a Rs. 300 Crores tender on 3rd January 2018 for the production of 1152 Crores plastic labels (polyester based holographic EAL) for use on Excise Control Bottles and such other containers. It is more than likely that these labels will float away causing extensive damage to our water bodies, or they may be burnt releasing a range of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere resulting in damage to human health, livestock, wildlife, forests, etc. In fact, in one way to calculate the area covered by all these labels unnecessarily being promoted for production and casual disposal (which is more than likely) it would approximately cover an area of 12,000 hectares (approx. 30,000 acres), which would be equivalent to 50 Bellandur Lakes (approx. 600 acres) or 100 times the area of Rashtrapathi Bhavan Complex (approx. 200 acres).
Environment Support Group (ESG) challenged the issual of this tender before the Hon’ble National Green Tribunal, New Delhi in O.A. 38/2018 responding favourably to this application, Hon’ble Justice Mr. U. D. Salvi (Judicial Member) and Hon’ble Mr. Nagi Nanda (Expert Member) have issued notice on various agencies of Government of Karnataka and also the Union Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to respond before the next date of hearing, i.e. 19thMarch 2018. The direction also specifies that the tender would be subject to the outcome of the Application.
ESG was represented by Counsel Mr. A. Yogeshwaran and the application was drafted in collaboration with counsels Ms. Maitreyi Krishnan and Ms. Akshatha Sharma.
A Copy of the Application and Orders of NGT is accessible at: https://tinyurl.com/ycecbgvn