The plastic ban which came into force two years ago gave birth to a local ‘green’ industry, with several manufacturers selling products — primarily bags — that were touted as eco-friendly and completely compostable. However, several rounds of tests conducted by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike have revealed that a majority of these bags do not live up to their claims.

They are labelled as being bioplastics and are often called compostable bags. However, the State government has now included these bags and plastic covers in the list of banned items. Plastic straws, too, are on the list. A notification in this regard was issued earlier this year.

This move has brought much cheer to solid waste management experts and activists in the city who say that compostable/ bioplastic bags were a grey area that manufacturers took advantage of. Smita Kulkarni, a waste management expert, said many shops and establishments — from online retailers to big supermarkets — were using such bags as manufacturers had claimed that they were compostable. “With the bags being included on the list of banned items, retailers have no other option but to look for eco-friendly options such as cloth bags,” she said.

BBMP’s Joint Commissioner (Health and Solid Waste Management) Sarfaraz Khan said when they placed the bags in a compost bin, they were just some perforations. “The bags didn’t compost,” said Mr. Khan, and added that the civic body had not let up on its drive to crack down on retailers, shopkeepers, and vendors who continue to use different forms of plastic.

“We found that many manufacturers were just printing “100% compostable” on bags and covers. For any bag to be certified as compostable, extensive research is needed,” Mr. Khan said.

The KSPCB, too, encountered similar problems. KSPCB chairperson Lakshman told
The Hindu
that the board had collected many samples of bags and covers that claimed to be compostable and ran several tests on them.

“What we found was that none of the bags was really compostable as it did not meet our standards,” he said. The pollution control board has to date closed down nearly 100 units that were manufacturing different plastic items, which have been banned in the State.

“Most of the plastic bags seem to be coming from other States,” he added.

The BBMP has held several rounds of discussions with the KSPCB on the problem of compostable bags that do not compost. Civic officials have suggested that certified biodegradable bags be manufactured with a unique colour that cannot be duplicated.

What is bioplastic

It is made from natural material such as cornstarch or potato starch and has a small percentage of plastic. However, it does not decompose completely. To decompose completely, bioplastic needs high temperatures and may leave behind toxic residues.

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