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Polluting environs to be termed as minor offence, littering in open may draw penalty

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, in an attempt to give Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a legal affect, will make littering in the open, dumping electronic waste, defacement of public places and use of banned plastic bags a “minor offence” with monetary penalties on the spot.

Minor offence will also include “manufacturing, possession and use of restricted or prohibited substance such as plastic bags below the prescribed thickness and violation of their disposal, including electronic waste”.

The Indian Express reported that to promote public awareness on cleanliness, the Environmental Laws (Amendment) Bill will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament to club these violations as non-cognizable crime.

“The Environment (Protection) Act (EPA) does not allow civil financial penalties to usher an active enforcement of environmental laws. And the existing criminal settlement alone is not proving effective. Penalty checks and public participation will lead to in-built social check”, reported the news paper.

The report stated that the Bill will specify minor offence in the EPA that will not involve filing an FIR or arrest. However it will attract a fine on the spot as happens in the case of “making atmosphere noxious to health” which attracts a fine of Rs 500. The required amount of fine will be governed under local municipal laws, within rules prescribed by the central law.

Prakash Javadekar, Environment and Forests Minister, has been rooting for bringing changes in the EPA to make compliance mechanism to discourage pollution, more effective.

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Plastics Can Be Eaten By Enzymes And Reduce Pollution

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate

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Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried into a depot before being pulverized as part of a recycling process at Tokyo PET Bottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo, Aug. 13, 2002. Researchers in Britain and the United States have engineered an enzyme that breaks down such plastics.
Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried into a depot before being pulverized as part of a recycling process at Tokyo PET Bottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo, Aug. 13, 2002. Researchers in Britain and the United States have engineered an enzyme that breaks down such plastics. VOA

Scientists in Britain and the United States say they have engineered a plastic-eating enzyme that could help in the fight against pollution.

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate, or PET — a form of plastic patented in the 1940s and now used in millions of tons of plastic bottles. PET plastics can persist for hundreds of years in the environment and currently pollute large areas of land and sea worldwide.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Portsmouth and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory made the discovery while examining the structure of a natural enzyme thought to have evolved in a waste-recycling center in Japan.

Finding that this enzyme was helping a bacteria to break down, or digest, PET plastic, the researchers decided to “tweak” its structure by adding some amino acids, said John McGeehan, a professor at Portsmouth who co-led the work.

This led to a serendipitous change in the enzyme’s actions — allowing its plastic-eating abilities to work faster.

“We’ve made an improved version of the enzyme better than the natural one already,” McGeehan told Reuters in an interview.

“That’s really exciting because that means that there’s potential to optimize the enzyme even further.”

The team, whose finding was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, is now working on improving the enzyme further to see if it could be capable of breaking down PET plastics on an industrial scale.

Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution, Pixabay

“It’s well within the possibility that in the coming years we will see an industrially viable process to turn PET, and potentially other [plastics], back into their original building blocks so that they can be sustainably recycled,” McGeehan said.

‘Strong potential’

Independent scientists not directly involved with the research said it was exciting, but cautioned that the enzyme’s development as a potential solution for pollution was still at an early stage.

“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” said Oliver Jones, a Melbourne University chemistry expert. “There is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem by breaking down some of the most commonly used plastics.”

Douglas Kell, a professor of bioanalytical science at Manchester University, said further rounds of work “should be expected to improve the enzyme yet further.”

Also read: Ayushmann Khurana speaks against plastic pollution

“All told, this advance brings the goal of sustainably recyclable polymers significantly closer,” he added. (VOA)