Indian Railways to ban single-use plastics from 2 October: How IRCTC has tackled this problem so far

FP Staff

A week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech on 73rd Independence Day, where he asked people to shun single-use plastic from 2 October, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian Railways has decided to take steps towards keeping its trains and premises completely free of single-use plastics.

Approximately 6,289 tonnes of plastic waste finds its way onto India's railway tracks, according to a report in 2009 by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

According to a Times of India report, the Railway Board on Monday issued a circular to all regional offices, asking the officers in charge to ensure complete removal of single-use plastics from all railways stations effective from 2 October.

"Under the revised rules, single-use plastic shall not be less than 50 microns, except where the thickness of such plastic sheets impairs the functionality of the product," read the order. "As part of Extended Producer Responsibility, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) should implement the return of plastic bottles at railways stations," said the revised policy order.

Bottle crushing machines will be expeditiously provided for this purpose, the circular said. In addition, the Railways will work with vendors at all railway platforms to encourage them not to use single-use plastics.

Last year, the Indian Railways had announced its plan to instal plastic bottle crushing machines at 2,000 stations across the country. This green initiative had been taken while keeping in mind India's goal of becoming a plastic-free country by 2022.

The ban will be strictly enforced on railway stations and other properties across the country and the ministry has also directed the catering arm of Indian Railways, the IRCTC, to set up plastic bottle crushing machines at all major stations.

The installation of crushers is a step is to prevent travellers from throwing used plastic bottles on the tracks or in the station premises.

The crusher machines would be installed at platforms and at exit points so that passengers who want to discard their plastic bottles can deposit them in the flaking machine. Depending on the volume of plastic bottles deposited the machine automatically starts and stops. The inserted bottles disintegrate into fine pieces of plastic that are then released from a different outlet.

The plastic pieces will be given to the plastic manufacturers, thus saving the landfills from additional plastic pollutants.

Under the scheme launched last year, passengers who take part in the bottle recycling process will get Paytm cashback of five rupees. For each bottle that is dropped in the installed crusher, a person will get a cashback after entering his/her mobile number.

Last year's World Environment Day's theme was 'beat plastic pollution'. So in a move to stick with the annual theme and reduce plastics, railways had decided to serve meals on eco-friendly, disposable plates made of bagasse, instead of those made of polymer to beat plastic pollution in some premium trains.

Earlier this year, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had instructed caterers at Varanasi and Rae Bareli stations to use terracotta-made 'kulhads', glasses and plates, according to a circular issued by the board to the chief commercial managers of Northern Railway and the North Eastern Railway. This move was welcomed by most but it will only have any substantial effect if it is implemented across all stations and not only on select routes.

With inputs from agencies

Also See: Indian Railways introduces SMS service to keep passengers apprised about their train journey

IRCTC’s Vikalp Scheme increases your chances of getting a confirmed reservation for a waitlisted ticket

Independence Day: Delhi Metro parking lots to remain shut and other increased security measures taken at railway stations

Read more on India by Firstpost.