Central Railway ponders means to deal with plastic bottles

Plans buyback policy and crushing machines at stations!

MUMBAI: With Maharashtra set to implement a Statewide ban on plastic from June 23, the Central Railways is exploring the possibility of implementing a buyback policy for plastic bottles along with installing plastic bottle crushing machines at major stations.

The biggest challenge that the railways face is that of plastic containers, including bottles, entering Maharashtra from other States.

Within Maharashtra, the government is proposing to have plastic bottles with a buyback price printed on it.

According to a senior railway official, they are considering to extend the buyback policy only for approved manufacturers of the railways and on bottles that print the buyback price. “The details for the same will only be finalised once the State decides on its policy. At present, we are only looking at how to make it operational,” the official said.

Storage problem

Additional Divisional Railway Manager of the Mumbai Division, Central Railway, V.A Malegaonkar, said, “We will be meeting the approved manufacturers in the coming week. We have also sought clarification from the zonal headquarters as to how to implement the buyback mechanism.”

Many stall managers and owners have highlighted the issue of storage for returned bottles and also mentioned that the scheme will work only if all stakeholders participate. “If there is no mechanism of collecting the old bottles periodically, there will be a pile up. We hardly have enough space to stock our running items,” a stall manager at Dadar railway station in Mumbai said.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is also separately discussing ways to frame a buyback plan for water-vending machines, which provide water in plastic cups as well as one-litre bottles.

“We will follow the law of the land and take appropriate measures to replace plastic with suitable paper or equivalent bio-degradable options at water-vending machines. Deliberations are on to look into the use of plastic bottles in a suitable manner so as to implement the rule,” IRCTC west region spokesperson Pinakin Morawala said.

Among some of the measures being discussed is to introduce a return policy on plastic bottles. A senior railway official said, “We are thinking of having plastic bottles with information about its buyback price as well an expiry date.” The official added it was crucial to have an expiry date to dissuade people from hoarding plastic bottles.

Consumption patterns

While consumption patterns at water vending machines differ at different stations, there is a high demand for bottles in areas that are experiencing a water shortage in Mumbai such as Diva and Mumbra. “The demand for bottles has been extremely high these last few months. I have exhausted my quota of bottles a week ago and customers generally fight with me for plastic bottles,” Zunjar Gawli, a water vending machine operator at Mumbra said.

Many operators have highlighted space as the biggest issue in the proposed policy. “There is barely enough space to store fresh water bottles, where will we get space to store returned ones.” The stall operator added that if the scheme were to be implemented, then there needs to be a system where old bottles are collected every few hours.