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Post at: Aug 26 2022

Ban on Single Use Plastics

Recent Context

  • India will ban manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential, all across the country from July 1, 2022.
  • This is in line with  the clarion call given by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, to phase out single use plastic items by 2022.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, in August last year.

What is single-use plastic?

  • It refers to plastic items that are used once and discarded.
  • It has among the highest shares of plastic manufactured and used — from packaging of items, to bottles (shampoo, detergents, cosmetics), polythene bags, face masks etc.
  • A 2021 report by one of the Australian philanthropic organisations the Minderoo Foundation said single-use plastics account for a third of all plastic produced globally, with 98% manufactured from fossil fuels.
  • The report found that India features in the top 100 countries of single-use plastic waste generation – at rank 94 (the top three being Singapore, Australia and Oman.

Landscape Of Plastic Waste Generation In India

  • India generates 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste a year.
  • The government data reveals that India’s per capita plastic waste generation is 3 kg per year.
  • Plastic waste generation during the year 2020-21 is approximately 41,26,997 tonnes per annum as per information provided by all State Pollution Control Boards.

What are the items being banned?

  • According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, there is already a complete ban on sachets using plastic material for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.
  • In September 2021 The Ministry had also  banned polythene bags under 75 micron.
  • The items on which the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have announced a ban presently  are-
  • ear buds; balloon sticks; candy and ice-cream sticks; cutlery items including plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, trays; sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packs; PVC banners measuring under 100 microns; and polystyrene for decoration.
  • From December, the ban will be extended to polythene bags under 120 microns.
  • Ministry officials have explained that the ban is being introduced in phases to give manufacturers time to shift to thicker polythene bags that are easier to recycle.

Problem with Single Use Plastics 

  • Ban was based on “difficulty of collection, and therefore recycling”.
  • When plastic remains in the environment for long periods of time and does not decay, it turns into microplastics.
  • It first entering our food sources and then the human body, and this is extremely harmful. 

Three-pronged strategy

  • The ministry is looking at a three-pronged strategy for banning single-use plastic in India:
  1. High littering potential - This means products that are quickly thrown away post usage. Most of these are disposable items that are found in drains and are seen as products that contribute to littering.
  2. Low utility - These are plastic products that have the least amount of usage or utility after being used. For instance, wrapping plastic sheets is hardly utilised after the packaging is opened.
  3. Availability of alternative - If other alternatives can be used in their place. For instance, paper bags, paper wrappings (which can be made from recycled material), bamboo spoons instead of plastic spoons, etc.

Enforcement of the ban 

  • The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre, and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.
  • Directions have been issued at national, state and local levels — for example, to all petrochemical industries — to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items.
  • From 1 July 2022, national and state level control rooms will be set up and special enforcement teams will be formed for checking illegal manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of banned single use plastic items. 
  • States and Union Territories have been asked to set up border check points to stop inter-state movement of any banned single use plastic items.
  • Violators can also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensation by the SPCB. 
  • In addition, there are municipal laws on plastic waste, with their own penal codes.
  • CPCB Grievance Redressal App has been launched to empower citizens to help curb plastic menace. 
  • For wider public outreach, PRAKRITI - mascot was also launched on 5th April.

Guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has also notified the Guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility on plastic packaging as Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022 on 16th February, 2022.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life.
  • The Guidelines will provide framework to strengthen circular economy of plastic packaging waste, promote development of new alternatives to plastic packaging and provide next steps for moving towards sustainable plastic packaging by businesses.

Substitution challenges

  • The plastic industry, along with companies such as Parle Agro, Amul, Dabur, Pepsico and All India Plastic Manufacturers Association (AIPMA), are seeking an extension of 6-12 months on the ban, citing issues like unavailability of alternatives, economic infeasibility and demand-supply gap, which will increase the cost of their product packaging. 
  • It is understood that the alternatives market in India is at a nascent stage, which forces companies to import and thus, increases cost.
  • The alternatives manufactured in India come with a premium price which may be unaffordable in most cases.

Conclussion 

  • Making India plastic-pollution free is not going to be easy and the responsibility is not limited to one stakeholder — the plastic industry or governments, for instance. All the stakeholders involved from the production of raw materials, plastic manufacturers, giant FMCG companies, national, state and local government along with the consumers have their parts to play to make the ban a success. The national and state governments have a long road ahead of them to ensure enforcement of the notified ban. We just cannot envisage that from July, India will become a single-use plastic free nation.

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