Getting to the heart of the plastic problem

A ?ragpicker? on Mumbai?s shoreline, which is littered with plastic waste. AP PHOTO/RAFIQ MAQBOOL polution

As has been rightly pointed out in many articles here on Whaleoil, the problem of plastic in the oceans is not from New Zealand rivers but from 10 rivers, 8 of which are in Asia.

This post on the issue of plastic is written by Vijay Jayaraj, who lives in India. Quote.

I am in Southern India and there is plastic everywhere.

Last spring, my travel across Southern India took me to beautiful landscapes and interesting places.

But all those places had one thing in common. They were littered with plastic. From national parks to freeways, plastic bags of all colors were seen at every place imaginable. Read more »


Plastic ban causes confusion

A ?ragpicker? on Mumbai?s shoreline, which is littered with plastic waste. AP PHOTO/RAFIQ MAQBOOL

More from India on plastic bags and plastic bans.? Yale Environment reports. Quote.

In June, one of the world?s strictest plastic bans came into effect in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai ? population 18.4 million ? is the capital. Plastic bags had been banned here before, to little effect. This time, however, thanks to a strong push from a prominent young local politician, the restrictions are far more sweeping. They included bans on the manufacture, sale, and use of throwaway plastic items such as bags, plates, cutlery, straws, and small bottles, as well as new regulations governing retail packaging and Styrofoam. And penalties for manufacturing and selling these items were now higher than ever, including fines of up to $350 and jail terms of up to three months.

The first week of the ban was marked by drama and confusion. More than 300 plastic bag manufacturers reportedly had to close, throwing thousands of people out of work. Restaurants began using aluminum takeout containers. Residents weren?t sure if they could even use plastic bags for their garbage.

Then came the backlash. Within a week ? after pleas from plastic manufacturers, milk suppliers, small traders, consumer giants like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, and e-commerce companies like Amazon ? the government relaxed the rules, exempting small traders and granting more time for bigger players to come up with solutions for retail packaging, including alternative materials and recycling schemes. For now, only plastic bags, takeout containers, plates, and Styrofoam remain forbidden.

In Mumbai?s bustling old Matunga market on a recent weekend, where open-air stalls offered a variety of vegetables and fruits and shops sold everything from mops to milk, plastic shopping bags were conspicuously missing. Customers were armed with canvas and cloth bags; vendors handed out paper ones, if asked. ?It?s like going backwards in time,? said one shopper.

Mumbai?s ban is part of a growing global trend restricting the use of plastics, especially plastic bags and other single-use items. But the city?s dramatic intervention seems more like a lesson in how not to implement a plastic ban. Restrictions were announced just three months before they were to take effect, there was little publicity before the June 23 deadline, and alternatives were not promoted. The failure to enforce previous bans also made people cynical. Big business didn?t even turn up for early meetings of the government committee handling the issue.End of quote.

At least our Captain gave us 4 months notice, not three! Quote.

?It was a jolt for everyone,? says Sameer Joshi, secretary of the Indian Plastics Institute, an industry body.

As the lobbying, backtracking, and confusion that have beset Mumbai in the past two months shows, it?s not easy to restrict a material that has become so deeply embedded in the modern economy. ?Transitioning to more environmentally suitable alternatives will be a lengthy process,? said Keith Weller, a spokesperson for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which launched a campaign on plastic pollution last year.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, experts say some factors are key to reducing single-use plastic. These include advance consultation with industries, sufficient time to build public support, strong enforcement, and the use of incentives such as the buy-back of banned plastic items. The success stories, in places ranging from Ireland to China, also suggest that charging people for using plastic bags works better than outright bans. Education is also important, as is improving waste management, especially in developing economies like India.

Experts say that targeting consumers and retailers for single-use items like bags, cups, and straws is a good place to start, since they are the most visible and ubiquitous plastic waste. But availability of affordable alternatives remains a challenge. ?There is a need for innovation and entrepreneurship,? says Weller, adding that alternative materials ? including biodegradable items and biopolymers such as cellulose ? need to be seen ?as part of a broader strategy toward more sustainable production.? […]End of quote.

But not in New Zealand, even biodegradable bags have been banned. Quote.

The quickening pace of action to reduce plastic use reflects growing concern about the impact of plastic waste on the environment, especially marine life. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year, much of it from Asia, especially China, with its growing economies and poor waste disposal systems. Plastic debris is now found on the farthest shores of the earth?s oceans, including in the high Arctic and Antarctica, and at great ocean depths. The discovery of small plastic particles, or microplastics, in the food chain, including in drinking water, have added to the rising concern.

More than 60 countries now have some kind of ban or tax on plastic bags, according to UNEP?s recent report. Data on the effectiveness of these rules is available for only half these countries, of which 30 percent have seen a dramatic decline in use, the report said. These include Denmark, Ireland, China, and the Netherlands. The other 20 percent of countries have seen no change. In May, the European Union proposed a ban on 10 single-use items, including bags, straws, and cotton swabs. Britain also has called for a ban on plastic straws, and other countries may follow suit; in the United States alone, 500 plastic million straws are used daily.End of quote.

Or maybe some other number. It depends on which 9-year old’s science project you consult. Quote.

Among the earliest and most successful countries at slashing plastic bag use was Denmark, which in 1993 became the first country to tax plastic bags, levying charges first on bag makers, and then in 2003, on retailers. Today, the average Dane uses four single-use bags in a year, compared to an American or Pole who uses a bag a day. In 2002, Ireland introduced a fee on plastic bags at supermarkets, leading to a 90 percent reduction in use. And in 2008, China reported a 70 percent fall in plastic bag use after it banned bags of less than 25-micron thickness and levied fees on thicker ones.

For Europe, the results are already showing: one study found a 30 percent drop in plastic bags on the seafloor around the U.K. and parts of northern Europe after 2010, which researchers attributed to the spread of bag charge policies.

Less successful has been a 2002 ban in Bangladesh, which forbade thin plastic bags after recurring floods were found to have been aggravated by plastic waste choking storm drains. Poor enforcement of the ban, as well as a lack of cheap alternatives, led to failure.

Recycling, on the other hand, is lacking everywhere. Globally, just 9 percent of plastic waste gets recycled, with some European countries coming close to 30 percent. Recycling capacities are low in advanced economies, such as Britain and the U.S., partly because they export their plastic waste, previously to China and now to Southeast Asia.

India has relatively high rates of recycling, thanks to an informal network of impoverished ?ragpickers.? But they do not collect plastic straws, thin plastic bags, other small items because it?s not worth their time to accumulate the enormous volumes needed to make up one kilogram of low-quality plastic, which fetches just over a dollar. It?s this lightweight, disposable plastic that pollutes India?s waterways, wetlands, and roads. […]

A little shock therapy can be helpful, as well. Back in Mumbai?s Matunga market, some vendors roll their eyes at the government?s effort. They?re skeptical that enforcement will last, especially once election campaign season begins later in the year. For now, they?re wrapping vegetables in newspaper and packing grains in thick plastic printed with the buyback price. And shoppers are changing their habits.

One of them, housewife Manisha Shah, said she now keeps canvas shopping bags in her car at all times. She was clutching two of these bags when I met her. ?You think you?re done, then you see something else you want to buy,? she said, ?But you can?t if your bag is full.? End of quote.


EXCLUSIVE: “No, I think you don’t know the rules because you are using VHF”

This recording was made from a ship heading to the Persian Gulf.

This is an exchange he recorded up at the top of the Gulf of Oman between Indian and Pakistani warships on a collision course at night earlier this week.

Oh dear. I hope they are cooperating up there on manoeuvres.



The great con: easy New Zealand residence

International students have been left feeling ripped off after changes to immigration rules shattered their dreams of residence, according to an Indian graduate and an immigration lawyer.

Mostly Indian students then.

Applications meeting the criteria for residency under the skilled migrant category have halved since a higher points threshold was introduced five months ago.

A new overhaul of the residence rules is expected later, which might lower the bar for skilled migrants, but is likely to favour more experienced immigrants. That would leave younger graduates unable to qualify under the new criteria.

Excellent. ? Looks like Winston Peters’ harping is having the right effect. ?This was always a rort, and it started in India.

Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont said he had thousands of clients who felt deceived by Immigration New Zealand’s continual references to a pathway to residence.

He said unlicensed agents in India had not slowed down their false promotion of overseas education as a route to residence since the change in the points system. Read more »

Knock me down with a feather, I agree with Rachel Smalley

Andrew Little chases another passing bus

It is rare that I agree with Rachel Smalley, but occasionally she gets something right.

Admittedly it isn’t often, but yesterday she was on the money.

The nine Indian students who are facing deportation for visa fraud and are living temporarily in a Church in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby.

What a position they’re in, and what a position Immigration New Zealand is in, too, writes Rachel Smalley.

The students signed their visa applications and in doing so, they signed fraudulent documents filled out by their agents. They paid those agents in India to help them to apply for a New Zealand visa, and it is the agents – they say – who are at fault here.

Not so. It is they who are at fault and whether it’s knowingly or unknowingly, the students have committed fraud. ?

Read more »

The Future of Energy: Man-made Global Warming and the Great Policy Error


Today’s guest post by Whaleoil reader Bruce Alan Forbes is the final part of an article he wrote called The Future of Energy with predictions for 2040. As it was an in-depth analysis I divided it into six posts so that we could discuss each part separately.

Man-made Global Warming and the Great Policy Error

The catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) ? or dangerous man-made global warming/climate change – movement is the main reason why governments have implemented policies that every year cost consumers and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Although they are having little or no effect on CO2 emissions, these policies have in the meantime reduced millions of people in the developed world to fuel poverty, and are preventing hundreds of millions of people in developing countries from gaining access to cheap, reliable electricity from gas or coal-burning generators. This constitutes one of the greatest and most pervasive government policy errors in history.

Read more »

Key not angry enough for Audrey Young?s liking


The Media party are annoyed that their trip to India has been delayed…in Townsville. Audrey Young thinks John Key should be angry.

There are times when Prime Minister John Key is just too relaxed for words and today was one of those times.

“We’re a little disappointed,” he said when the breakdown of an Air Force Boeing in Australia forced the cancellation of the Mumbai leg of his trip to India.

“It is a little bit sub-optimal.”

This sort of laconic understatement might work in ads about Southern men to sell Speights or utes.

But not today. Key should be seething. The break down was unforgivable.

It’s embarrassing for New Zealand’s reputation as a can-do country.
Can’t even arrive.

Read more »

Well this is embarrassing. A Prime Minister who can?t even get one working plane

It is pretty embarrassing that NZ can’t field a plane to get the PM to India.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 plane has aborted takeoff twice at Townsville Airport in Australia due to technical problems.

It’s carrying Prime Minister John Key, former Blackcap Brendon McCullum and a delegation of around 30 business leaders to Mumbai, India, to build trade ties.

A contingent of media, as well as the Defence Force cricket team, were also on board.

Read more »


Despite the howls of outrage he’s actually right

There are howls of outrage over comments by?Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi about students with dodgy visas.

Indian students facing deportation claim they are being treated unfairly by the Government, and are planning to protest.

The students allege their India-based agents used fake documents to obtain their student visas.

Migrant Workers Association spokeswoman Anu Kaloti says National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi likened the students to faulty fridges from China during a radio interview.

“If New Zealand imports fridges from China for example, and those fridges are faulty, New Zealand sends them back to China. Hello, we are talking about real people here – we cannot compare them to items like fridges.” ? Read more »

Machiavellian Fatwa against KFC

The fatwa that has been issued against KFC in India is Machiavellian in its intent. All KFC has to do to address the halal issues raised in the fatwa is to discriminate against its employees by firing all non-Muslim staff and replacing them with Muslims.

A Fatwa has been issued against KFC by a dargah in Bareilly as it says that the non-vegetarian items sold there was not halal.

It is compulsory for Muslims to eat only halal and the food which is not halaal is not fit for consumption as it is considered food obtained via sinful means.

The Dargah-e-Ala Hazrat has lashed out against the KFC outlet based in Bareilly and said that many in India are not following the Islamic tenets while serving the food.

As per The Indian Express, the Dargah-e-Ala Hazrat also had issues with the way the food was being processed at KFC. It said that if the meat is even processed ?away from the eyes of Muslims? then it is also haram!

He further said that if the meat is not prepared by a Muslim then also it makes it unfit for Muslim consumption.

Read more »