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Monthly DNA

06 Dec, 2022

29 Min Read

Plastic's Life Cycle

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Environmental Pollution

Plastic's Life Cycle

  • According to a recent document titled "The Plastic Life-Cycle," India is not properly collecting and recycling its polymer waste.
  • The document emphasized that the problem will not be solved unless the entire life cycle of plastic, from source to disposal, is considered as the root cause of the pollution it causes.

What is plastic waste?

  • Unlike other forms of waste, such as paper, food peels, and leaves, which are biodegradable (capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms) in nature, plastic waste persists in the environment for hundreds (or even thousands) of years.

The Most Polluting Plastic Waste:

  • Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are less than five millimeters in size.
  • Microplastics include microbeads (solid plastic particles with the largest dimension of less than one millimeter) used in cosmetics and personal care products, industrial scrubbers, textile microfibers, and virgin resin pellets used in plastic manufacturing processes.
  • Large pieces of plastic that have not been recycled break down into microplastics as a result of sun exposure and physical wear.
  • Single-use plastic is a disposable material that can only be used once before being discarded or recycled, such as plastic bags, water bottles, soda bottles, straws, plastic plates, cups, most food packaging, and coffee stirrers.

Problems Involved:

More Plastic Per Person:

  • Every day, approximately 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste go uncollected.

Unsustainable Packaging:

  • The packaging industry in India is the largest consumer of plastics.
  • According to a 2020 study on packaging in India, unsustainable packaging will cost nearly 133 billion dollars in plastic material value over the next decade.
  • Unsustainable packaging consists of general packaging made of single-use plastic.

Online Delivery:

  • Although limited to major cities, the popularity of online retail and food delivery apps is contributing to the rise in plastic waste.
  • Swiggy and Zomato, India's largest online delivery startups, reportedly deliver about 28 million orders per month.

Disrupts the Food Chain:

  • Plastic pollution can harm the world's smallest organisms, such as plankton.
  • When these organisms become poisoned as a result of plastic ingestion, the larger animals that rely on them for food suffer.

What are India's challenges in terms of plastic waste management?

  • Plastic waste management consists of two distinct steps: collection and recycling.
  • End-of-life care.
  • Both are not carried out properly in India.

Inadequate Implementation and Monitoring:

  • Local governments, producers, importers, and brand owners are responsible for collecting plastic waste.
  • However, ragpickers, not authorities, collect the majority of plastic waste in India.
  • In India, as much as 42% - 86% of plastic waste flows through the informal sector to material recovery facilities run by multinational corporations in collaboration with local governments or otherwise.
  • According to the Indian government, 60% of the country's plastic waste is recycled. This, however, is limited to specific types of polymers (plastics), such as PET bottles.
  • According to a statistical analysis conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment using data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India recycles only 12% of its plastic waste (via mechanical recycling).

Waste Burning:

  • Close to 20% of plastic waste is diverted to end-of-life solutions such as co-incineration, plastic-to-fuel, and road construction, implying that India is burning 20% of its plastic waste.

What should our strategy be going forward?

Locating Hotspots:

  • Identifying key hotspots of plastic leakage associated with plastic production, consumption, and disposal can help governments develop effective policies that directly address the plastic problem.
  • Designing Alternatives: The first step is to identify plastic items that can be replaced with non-plastic, recyclable, or biodegradable materials.
  • Promoting the use of Oxo-biodegradable plastics, which are designed to degrade faster than regular plastics due to ultraviolet radiation and heat.
  • Recycling via Technology and Innovation: Waste is valuable, and waste, particularly plastic, is a resource. Recycling, particularly plastic recycling, establishes a system that creates a value chain for waste.
  • Circular Economy for Plastic Management: The circular economy reduces material use, redesigns materials to be less resource intensive, and reclaims "waste" as a resource for the manufacture of new materials and products.
  • The circular economy can also significantly contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals.

What is India Doing for Plastic Waste Management?

  • National Dashboard on Elimination of Single-Use Plastic and Plastic Waste Management:
  • India launched a nationwide awareness campaign on Single Use Plastics on World Environment Day in June 2022.
  • A mobile app for Single Use Plastics Grievance Redressal was also launched to empower citizens to check sale/usage/manufacturing of SUP in their area and tackle the plastic menace.

Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022:

  • It prohibits the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of several single-use plastic items as of July 1, 2022.
  • It has also mandated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) that incorporates circularity by making manufacturers of products responsible for collecting and processing their products upon the end of the product’s lifetime.

India Plastics Pact:

  • It is the first of its kind in Asia. The Plastics Pact is an ambitious and collaborative initiative to bring stakeholders together to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics within the material’s value chain.

Mascot 'Prakriti':

  • To spread awareness among masses about small changes that can be sustainably adopted in lifestyle for a better environment.

Project REPLAN:

  • Project REPLAN (stands for REducing PLastic in Nature) launched by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) aims to reduce the consumption of plastic bags by providing a more sustainable alternative.

Source: Down To Earth

Rooftop Solar Installations

GS-III : Economic Issues Renewable energy

Rooftop Solar Installations

According to Mercom Research India, rooftop solar capacity installations in India fell 29% to 320 megawatts (MW) in July-September 2022.

What are the Results?

  • Cumulative Installations: As of the end of the third quarter of 2022, cumulative rooftop solar (RTS) installations stood at 8.3 GW.
  • Gujarat overtook Maharashtra and Rajasthan as the state with the most rooftop solar installations.
  • The top ten states accounted for roughly 73% of total rooftop solar installations.

Installations are declining:

  • Installations were also down 11% from January to September, totaling 1,165 MW, compared to 1,310 MW in the same nine-month period in 2021.

Decline Causes:

  • Solar installations are declining as their costs have risen.
  • The market is experiencing supply issues as a result of the Approved List of Module and Manufacturers (ALMM), and installers are finding it difficult to operate in general.

What is rooftop solar?

  • Rooftop solar is a photovoltaic system with electricity-producing solar panels mounted on the roof of a residential or commercial building or structure.
  • Rooftop-mounted systems are small in comparison to ground-mounted photovoltaic power stations with megawatt capacities.
  • Rooftop PV systems on residential buildings typically have capacities ranging from 5 to 20 kilowatts (kW), whereas those mounted on commercial buildings frequently have capacities of 100 kilowatts or more.


Policy Flip-Flopping:

  • Although many businesses began to use solar energy, policy flip-flopping (a sudden real or apparent change in policy) remained a major barrier, particularly for power distribution companies (discoms).
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council of India recently increased the GST on many solar system components from 5% to 12%.

Inconsistent Net and Gross Metering Rules:

  • Net metering regulations are one of the most significant challenges facing the industry.
  • According to a report, the Power Ministry's new rules that exclude rooftop solar systems (RTS) with capacities greater than 10 kilowatts (kW) from net-metering would stymie the adoption of larger installations in India, thereby affecting the country's rooftop solar target.
  • Net metering is required for rooftop solar projects up to 10 kW and gross metering for systems with loads greater than 10 kW under the new rules.
  • Net metering allows Roof Top Solar systems(RTS) to feed excess power back into the grid.
  • State DISCOMs compensate consumers with a fixed feed-in-tariff for solar power supplied to the grid under the gross metering scheme.

Low-cost financing:

  • The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has advised banks to provide RTS loans at reduced interest rates. However, nationalised banks rarely lend to RTS.
  • As a result, many private players have entered the market, offering RTS loans at higher rates such as 10-12%.

What are the Schemes for Promoting Solar Energy?

  • Rooftop Solar Scheme: The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is implementing the Grid-connected Rooftop Solar Scheme to generate solar power by installing solar panels on the roofs of houses (Phase II).
  • It aims to achieve a cumulative capacity of 40,000 MW from Rooftop Solar Projects by 2022.
  • Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan: The scheme covers grid-connected Renewable Energy power plants (0.5 – 2 MW)/Solar water pumps/grid connected agriculture pumps.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA): The ISA, is an Indian initiative that was launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France on 30th November 2015 in Paris, France on the side-lines of the Conference of the Parties (COP-21), with 121 solar resource rich countries lying fully or partially between the tropic of Cancer and tropic of Capricorn as prospective members.
  • One Sun, One World, One Grid: It has been taken up under the technical assistance program of the World Bank. Its objective is to aid in developing a worldwide grid through which clean energy can be transmitted anywhere, anytime.
  • National Solar Mission a part of the ( National Action Plan on Climate Change).

Way Forward

  • The RTS requires simple financing, unrestricted net metering, and a simple regulatory process. Public financial institutions and other major lenders may be required to lend to the segment.
  • Some existing bank credit lines could be adapted to meet the challenges of the Indian RTS market, making it more appealing to developers in this space.

Source: The Hindu

Rare Earth Elements


Rare Earth Elements

  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has urged the government to encourage private mining in the sector and diversify supply sources in light of India's reliance on China for rare earth minerals imports.
  • Despite having 6% of the world's rare earth reserves, India produces only 1% of global output and imports the majority of its rare earth minerals from China.
  • In 2018-19, for example, China accounted for 92% of rare earth metal imports by value and 97% by quantity.

What are CII's Suggestions?

  • As a critical component of the Deep Ocean Mission, the CII proposed establishing a 'India Rare Earths Mission' manned by professionals, similar to the India Semiconductor Mission.
  • The industry group has also proposed incorporating rare earth minerals into the 'Make in India' campaign, citing China's 'Made in China 2025' initiative, which focuses on new materials, including permanent magnets made from rare earth minerals.

What are rare earth metals?

  • They consist of seventeen different metallic elements.
  • These include the fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table, as well as scandium and yttrium, which have physical and chemical properties similar to the lanthanides.
  • The seventeen rare earth elements are cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (T (Y).
  • Because of their distinct magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, these minerals are used in a wide range of modern technologies, including consumer electronics, computers and networks, communications, health care, national defence, and clean energy technologies.
  • These Rare Earth Elements are required by even futuristic technologies.
  • For example, high-temperature superconductivity, safe hydrogen storage and transport for a post-hydrocarbon economy, and so on.
  • They were given the name "rare earth" because it was previously difficult to extract them technologically from their oxide forms.
  • They are found in many minerals, but in too low concentrations to be economically refined.

How did China gain control of rare earths?

  • China has gradually gained global dominance in rare earths, and at one point produced 90% of the rare earths required by the world.
  • However, it has now dropped to 60%, with the remainder produced by other countries, including the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and United States).
  • Since 2010, when China restricted shipments of Rare Earths to Japan, the United States, and Europe, production units in Australia and the United States have emerged, along with smaller units in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
  • Nonetheless, China has the lion's share of processed Rare Earths.

What is India's current Rare Earth Policy?

  • The Bureau of Mines and the Department of Atomic Energy have conducted exploration in India.
  • Mining and processing were previously handled by a few minor private players, but are now handled by Indian Rare Earths Limited(IREL), a Public Sector Undertaking under the Department of Atomic Energy.
  • In India, government corporations such as IREL have a monopoly on the primary mineral containing Rare Earth Elemants: monazite beach sand, which is found in many coastal states.
  • IREL manufactures rare earth oxides (low-cost, low-reward "upstream processes") and sells them to foreign companies that extract metals and manufacture end products (high-cost, high-reward "downstream processes") elsewhere.
  • The primary goal of IREL is to supply the Department of Atomic Energy with thorium extracted from monazite.

Way Forward

  • India should learn from other advanced economies about how they plan to secure their mineral needs and attempt to join multinational fora on ensuring critical mineral supply chains - or use existing partnerships, such as Quad and BIMSTEC, to foster such dialogues.
  • There must also be top-level government decision-making to strategize on how to create vertically integrated supply chains of green technology manufacturing, or we risk falling far short of our climate change mitigation targets.
  • India should establish a new Department for Rare Earths (DRE) to act as a regulator and enabler for businesses in this sector.

Source: The Hindu

Dhamma Dipa International Buddhist University

GS-I : Art and Culture Buddhism

Dhamma Dipa International Buddhist University

  • On November 29, 2022, the foundation stone for the Dhamma Dipa International Buddhist University (DDIBU) at Manu Bankul in Sabroom, South Tripura, will be laid.
  • DDIBU is expected to be India's first Buddhist-run university, offering Buddhist education alongside courses in other modern education disciplines.

About Buddhism:

  • Buddhism originated in India over 2,600 years ago.
  • The religion is founded on Siddhartha Gautam's teachings and life experiences.
  • The fundamental teachings of Buddhism are encapsulated in the four noble truths or ariya-sachchani and the eight-fold path or ashtangika marg.

Four lofty truths:

  • The essence of the world is suffering (dukkha).
  • Every ailment has a reason - Samudya.
  • Suffering could be eradicated - Nirodha.
  • It is possible to achieve this by following the Atthanga Magga (Eight-Fold Path).

The Eight-Fold Paths are a collection of interconnected activities related to knowledge, conduct, and meditative practices.

  • Right view
  • Right intention
  • Right speech
  • Right action
  • Right livelihood
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right effort
  • Right concentration
  • The essence of Buddhism is the attainment of enlightenment or nirvana, which is not a physical location but an experience that can be had in this life.
  • Buddhism has no supreme god or deity.
  • Buddhist schools include: Mahayana (Idol Worship), Hinayana, Theravada, Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism), and Zen.

Buddhist texts (Tipitaka) include:

  • Vinaya Pitaka (monastic rules), Sutta Pitaka (Buddha's main teaching or Dhamma), and Abhidhamma Pitaka (a philosophical analysis and systematization of the teaching).

Buddhism's Contribution to Indian Culture:

  • Its main contribution was the concept of ahimsa. It later became one of our country's most cherished values.
  • It made an important contribution to Indian art and architecture. The stupas in Sanchi, Bharhut, and Gaya are magnificent works of architecture.
  • It promoted education by establishing residential universities such as Taxila, Nalanda, and Vikramasila.
  • Pali and other local languages evolved as a result of Buddhist teachings.
  • It also aided in the spread of Indian culture throughout Asia.
  • Buddhist UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara in Nalanda, Bihar Buddhist Monuments in Sanchi, the MP Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya, and the Bihar Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
  • In 2012, the Buddhist chanting of Ladakh was added to UNESCO's Representative List of Humanity's Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Source: The Indian Express

Zombie Virus

GS-III : S&T Health

Zombie Virus

  • Recently, French scientists warned of the possibility of another outbreak after resurrecting a 48,500-year-old zombie virus buried beneath a frozen lake in Russia.
  • This has surpassed the previous record of a 30,000-year-old virus discovered in Siberia by the same team in 2013.

About Zombie Virus:

  • A zombie virus is a virus that has become dormant due to being frozen in ice.
  • The virus emerged as a result of permafrost thawing as global temperatures rise.
  • It is a collection of viruses that have lain dormant for thousands of years.
  • Pandoravirus yedoma, named after the mythological character Pandora, is 48,500 years old and has the ability to infect other organisms.
  • It was discovered beneath the water's surface in Yukechi Alas, Yakutia, Russia.

What could be the source of the problem?

  • Permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground, covers one-quarter of the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Because of climate change, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter that has been frozen for up to a million years, the majority of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, exacerbating the greenhouse effect.
  • This organic matter also includes revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) and viruses that have been dormant since prehistoric times.

Is the virus capable of causing harm?

  • All zombie viruses have the potential to be contagious and thus pose a health risk.
  • It is believed that pandemics like Covid-19 will become more common in the future as melting permafrost releases long-dormant viruses.

Source: Down To Earth

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