- Define Single-Use Plastic.
- State the current status of plastic ban in India.
- Mention the challenges in plastic waste management.
- State how the ban is being enforced.
Plastic waste management is becoming a challenging task for countries across the globe and India is no exception to it. The use of plastic is on rise while its disposal and safe management hasn’t been commensurate with its increased usage. Considering this, India has put a ban on ‘Single-Use Plastic’ from July 1 under the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
What are Single-Use Plastics ? : It refers to plastic items that are used once and discarded. The Plastic Waste Management Rules, amended in 2021, define single-use plastic as plastic item intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled. There are different types of plastics : PET, High-density Polyethylene, Low-density Polyethylene, Linear low-density polyethene (LLDPE), PVC, Polypropylene and Styrofoam.
Single-use plastic has among the highest shares of plastic manufactured and used. It is present in packaging of items, bottles, food packaging etc.
Current status of plastic ban : The items on which the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have announced a ban are earbuds; 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.
The Ministry had already banned polythene bags under 75 microns in September 2021, expanding the limit from the earlier 50 microns. The ban will be extended to polythene bags under 120 microns from December 2022. The ban is being introduced in phases to give manufacturers time to shift to thicker polythene bags that are easier to recycle. As per the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, there is also a complete ban on sachets using plastic material for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.
Challenges in plastic waste management ? :
- While manufacturers can use the same machine for 50- and 75-micron bags, the machinery needs to be upgraded for 120 microns. This will enhance the cost of production and put a greater burden on consumers.
- Many sellers fear that the alternatives will cost more than single-use plastic. The availability of the substitutes might not be enough to meet the demand.
- There is currently no dedicated international mechanism in place designed specifically to prevent plastic pollution throughout the entire plastics lifecycle.
- The success would rely largely on how effectively these norms are governed by the Central and State Pollution Control Boards. Their past records in plastic waste management are quite uninspiring. This is testified by frequent violation of plastic rules in major cities like Delhi, Bengaluru etc.
- The prevalence of corruption impedes the effective implementation of ban and fails to create a substantial deterrence on violators.
- Informalized nature of rag pickers inhibits a strong linkage between waste collectors and processing plants, along with proper segregation at source.
How can the ban be enforced ? : The ban on single-use plastic 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, to that effect, have been issued at national, state and local levels. For example, all petrochemical industries have been instructed to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items. Directions have also been issued to SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees. They must modify or revoke ‘consent to operate’ issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.
Those found violating the ban can be penalized under the Environment Protection Act 1986. It allows for imprisonment up to 5 years, or a penalty up to INR 1 lakh, or both. Violators can also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensation by the SPCB. In addition, there are specific municipal laws on plastic waste, with their own penal codes.
The ban on single-use plastic is just a small step towards attainment of sustainable development. The current scenario warrants that all the countries develop a higher degree of environmental consciousness.