Environment Positive- India bans single-use plastic

The Union Environment Ministry has notified a ban on single-use plastic with effect from July 1st, 2022.

“The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the listed single-use plastics, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st of July, 2022,’’ says the Ministry notification.
The ban is applicable to low-utility and high-littering potential items such as earbuds, thermocol for decoration, cutlery made of plastic, wrapping or packaging films around sweet boxes; invitation cards and cigarette packets, plastic sticks for balloons, candy and ice cream, etc.
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.
Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986—which allows for imprisonment of up to 5 years, or a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh, or both.

● What is sinlge-use plastic?

Single-use plastics or disposable plastics are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. They include water bottles, straws, and food packages, etc. They are petroleum based and are not biodegradable.

●Expected Positive Impacts

-Reduced plastic pollution- According to UNDP if plastic is not recycled, it can take thousands of years to decompose.
-Cleaner environment- Streets across India’s towns and cities are littered with used plastic goods that eventually choke drains, rivers, and oceans and also kill animals. The ban promises to aid the Swachh Bharat Mission.
-Addresses health hazard- When plastic remains in the environment for long periods of time and does not decay, it turns into microplastics. It can enter our food sources and then into the human body, which can be extremely harmful. The SUP ban aims to reduce this health threat.

● Issues

-Implementation issues- In the past, many states have banned plastic bags, but these bans have been largely ineffective because of the widespread use of these items.
-A large part of existing investment, machinery, business processes, and jobs in the plastic industry may be in trouble.
-Only big companies might be able to afford the additional costs of replacing old machinery.
-The burden of the plastic ban will disproportionately affect the poor because plastic is more affordable than its substitutes.

●Way forward

-Information about alternatives for vendors who are selling single-use plastics should be freely available.
-For the ban to be effective, enforcement must be consistent and localized.
-Cloth bags and food items were distributed in exchange for single-use plastics in Kolkata- such initiatives should be promoted at the national level.
– Increase public participation- The plastic bottles we’re throwing away every day still stay there. Single-use plastic has become a part of our everyday life, so behavioural change and consumer awareness is very important to curb the menace of plastic pollution.

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About the author

Neeru Sangwan