JK Bank

27, 870, 000—while you might have skipped the numbers, or can’t pronounce it mathematically—you should know that Jammu and Kashmir has produced this much of plastic waste in kilograms (kgs) in 2017-18 year.

For the newbies on the internet—or those who are unaware of issues around the world—there is a thing called Global Warming; and plastic adds its 2 cents in it. Plastic, a synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers, takes from 450 to more than a thousand year to degrade in the ecosystem.

Mohammad Saidullah, 32, a resident of Bihar travels nearly 40 kilometers every day around Srinagar to collect roughly 30 kgs of plastic and other recycling items on an average. “I work nine hours a day,” he said. “I roam around the dumping sites and collect scrap, which I sell to the factory owner.” He ends up earning 400-500 rupees a day.

Being more than aware of their job, rag-pickers are choosy in their picks. Buying from shops to the negligent roadside littering by passers-by, rag-pickers bridge the gap from the roadside to processing factories.

In 2017, at United Nations (UN) Environment Assembly, held in Nairobi, Kenya, nearly 193 countries including India pledged to work towards eliminating plastic pollution in the sea.

According to a survey conducted by Consolidated Guidelines for Segregation, Collection and Disposal of Plastic Waste, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in 2017-18, India on an average receives 4,059.18 (tonnes per day) plastic waste generation, and 28.14 tonnes per day in Srinagar.

Once the plastic reaches plastic compressing factory, employees like 54-year-old Abdul Rashid, working in Bemina, on the outskirts of Srinagar city, separate it on the basis of different color pigments. Metal elements, if any, are segregated from the plastic, before finally pouring the bottles, and cans into the compressor.

As per data available on the website of CPCB, there are 187 registered plastic manufacturing or recycling units while 21 units are multilayered plastic and 22 unregistered units.

As per the annual report, published on the same website, the practice of proper labeling and marking of plastic carry bags are not followed by all the manufacturers, and State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) body has not been constituted by the State Government.

Mohammad Yousuf, who owns a similar licensed plastic factory in Zakura area of Srinagar, said, “We are exporting nine tonnes of compressed plastic outside the valley.” The exportation depends on the fluctuation of rate, and it being non-fixed.

“We work with many plastics manufacturer, and the exportation depends on the proposed rates,” said Mohammad Abdullah, another factory owner in HMT area of Srinagar. “I mostly deliver my stock to a factory in Ambala, as they exchange good amount in return in comparison to Delhi-NCR.”

So, the bottle you drank from, or the straw you are sipping from is staying around longer than you think or will any of us will live.

A rag-picker collecting used plastic and cart-boards from a dumping site. Photograph by Saide Zahoor Shah for The Kashmir Walla
Workers sorting out plastic bottles on the basis of their color.
Photograph by Saide Zahoor Shah for The Kashmir Walla

Women separating metal elements from the used plastic bottles.
Photograph by Saide Zahoor Shah for The Kashmir Walla
Abdul Rashid gathering plastic cans to process in the compressor.
Photograph by Saide Zahoor Shah for The Kashmir Walla
Bundles of compressed plastic bottles ready to go for further process outside Jammu and Kashmir. Photograph by Saide Zahoor Shah for The Kashmir Walla
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