Explained: What is single-use plastic, why is India banning it?

It is estimated that between 26 and 27 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year
Last Updated : 29 June 2022, 09:09 IST
Last Updated : 29 June 2022, 09:09 IST
Last Updated : 29 June 2022, 09:09 IST
Last Updated : 29 June 2022, 09:09 IST

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The Indian Government is set to ban single-use plastics from July 1. "The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from July 1, 2022," said a release from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Plastic consumption worldwide

If current consumption patterns and waste management practices continue, then by 2050 there will be around 12 billion tonnes of plastic litter in landfills and the environment, according to UN data.

The government appears to have taken cognisance of this threat and has responded. Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav said India generated 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually.

It is estimated that between 26 and 27 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.

What are single-use plastics?

They are plastic items discarded after being used only once. They are called disposable plastics and are commonly used in packaging. These include grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups, and cutlery. They also make up the highest share of manufactured plastics. Most plastics are not biodegradable. Instead, they slowly break down into smaller fragments known as microplastics.

Irresponsible individual behaviour is a major reason for single-use plastics cluttering up the environment. Inadequate waste management systems also have a significant impact.

Which items have been banned?

As per the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, there is a ban on sachets using plastic material used for storing, packing, or selling gutkha, tobacco, and pan masala, according to the ministry notice.

Also banned are earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic balloon sticks, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice cream sticks, polystyrene decorations as well as cutlery items like plates, forks, spoons, knives, glasses, straws, and trays. Other banned items include the wrapping film around sweet boxes, invitation cards and cigarette packets, plastic stirrers, and plastic or PVC banners that are less than 100 microns.

The ministry had already banned polythene bags under 75 microns in September 2021, which expanded the limit from the earlier 50 microns. From December, the ban will be extended to polythene bags under 120 microns.

Why single-use plastics?

These particular plastics are the strongest threat to the environment, wildlife, and people. They contribute to rising pollution levels and the toxic chemicals released from them can infect groundwater easily, which can cause deadly diseases.

Since 1950, close to half of all plastics used worldwide ended up in landfills or were dumped in the wild, according to a report from the Veolia Institute. Only nine per cent of used plastic has been adequately recycled.

Ministry officials reportedly said that the choice for the first set of single-use plastic items for the ban was based on "difficulty of collection, and therefore recycling".

How will the ban be enforced?

The State Pollution Control Boards will submit regular reports to the Centre and the Central Pollution Control Board will monitor the progress. Instructions have been delivered at the national, state, and local levels to prevent the supply of raw materials to businesses that will allow the manufacturing of the banned items.

Union Minister Bhupender Yadav on Tuesday said that control rooms would be set up to monitor and ensure the enforcement of the ban at the national and state levels.

Published 29 June 2022, 09:09 IST

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