Plastic Waste Generation in India

Plastic Waste Generation in India

  • According to CPCB data, about 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated annually in India. About 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day.
  • Delhi contributes highest plastic waste generating about 690 tonnes every day, followed by Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai.

Types of Plastic Waste and their sources

  1. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • Source: Mainly drinking water and soft drink bottles, plastic jars, plastics films, plastic sheets.
  • Recyclability: Easily Recyclable.
  • Thus India recycles 90% of its PET waste annually.
  1. High Density Polyethylene and Low Density Polyethylene
  • Source: Plastics bags, food containers, woven sacks, plastics Toys, milk pouches & shopping bags.
  • Recyclability: Commonly recyclable as it does not break under exposure to extreme heat and cold.
  1. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
  • Source: Pipes, Hoses, Sheets, Wire, cable insulations, Multilayer Tubes
  • Recyclability: Called as ‘poison plastic’, it is the least recycled.
  1. Polypropylene 
  • Source: Disposable Cups, Bottle caps, Straws
  • Recyclability: Difficult to recycle.
  1. Polystyrene 
  • Source: Disposable cups, glasses, plates, spoons, trays, CD covers, foams
  • Recyclability: Not recyclable as it breaks easily.
  1. Thermoset
  • Source: CD, Helmets, Shoe soles.
  • Recyclability: Not recyclable


Recycling: A major problem

  • The main reason of high amount of plastic waste in Indian cities is because of low level of recycling.
  • According to a study by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations out of the 72 million tonnes of municipal solid waste every day, about 6.5 million tonnes was plastic.
  • Out of this only 60% of the plastic waste is recycled while rest 40 per cent is litter.

Segregation at source

  • The main issue is segregation of plastic waste at source.
  • Segregation of organic waste from plastic, paper and metal, is the foundation of recycling.
  • According to Solid Waste Management rules, 2016, segregation at source is mandatory.
  • Indian cities are yet to catch up with segregation regulation.
  • Bengaluru and Pune have performed well with about 50% segregated at source.
  • Small cities like Panaji and Tirunelveli segregates 90% and 100% of their wastes respectively.
  • The main problem is with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai who don’t even have data on segregation.
  • In Delhi, Chennai no post-treatment operation of Municipal Solid Waste is carried out and it is dumped as land filling.

Issues in recycling

  • 94% of plastic waste generated is recyclable and belongs to the thermoplastics family, while the rest 6% are non-recyclable thermoset plastics.
  • 67% of the plastic waste belonged to the HDPE/ LDPE, 10% to polypropylene and 8.66% to PET amongst others.
  • While India recycles 90% of its PET wastes annually, the rate of recycling for other plastic wastes are low.
  • The main reason for high recycling of PET bottles is due to almost 4 million waste pickers.
  • Similarly polyethylene and polypropylene also fetch money for waste pickers and thus recycled.
  • However polypropylene in carry bags is not as attractive for waste pickers and hence not segregated.
  • Further multilayered plastic used in wrappers, thermoset plastics have low levels of recycling.
  • This is because thermoset plastic burn upon heating.

Way Forward

  • Better segregation of Municipal Solid Waste for which greater civic awareness is a must.
  • The thermoset plastic waste can be used as fuel in cement kilns.
  • Implementation of extended producer responsibility defined under Plastic Waste Management rules, 2016 according to which it is the responsibility of plastic producers to set up infrastructure to recycle the items they manufactured.
Section : Environment & Ecology