News: In keeping with the spirit of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the country is taking steps to curb littered and unmanaged plastic waste pollution.
GS Paper 3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
What is single-use plastic?
- It refers to plastic items that are used once and discarded. Single-use plastic has among the highest shares of plastic manufactured and used — from packaging of items, to bottles (shampoo, detergents, cosmetics), polythene bags, face masks, coffee cups, cling film, trash bags, food packaging etc.
Key findings of a report by the Australian philanthropic organisations the Minderoo Foundation
- Single-use plastics account for a third of all plastic produced globally, with 98% manufactured from fossil fuels.
- Single-use plastic also accounts for the majority of plastic discarded – 130 million metric tonnes globally in 2019 all of which is burned, buried in landfills or discarded directly into the environment
- 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)
- India’s net generation of single-use plastic waste is 5.6 MMT, and per capita generation is 4 kg with domestic production of 11.8 million metric tonnes annually, and import of 2.9 MMT.
What is the environmental damage from single-use plastic?
- Unlike thicker and denser plastic material, single-use plastic objects being light and flexible are less amenable to being recycled. While 99% of plastic is recycled, they constitute heavier plastics that are likely to be collected by ragpickers and plastic waste recyclers.
- Single use plastics do not provide an incentive enough for the effort needed to collect them and hence they lie around, leach their toxins into the soil and cause environmental damage in both land and sea.
What are global responses towards tackling pollution due to plastics?
- Bangladesh became the first country to ban thin plastic bags in 2002; New Zealand banned plastic bags in July 2019. China has issued a ban on plastic bags in 2020 with a phased implementation. Vanuatu and the Seychelles have banned plastic straws outright.
- India piloted a resolution on single-use plastics pollution at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019, recognising the urgent need for the global community to address this issue. This resolution was adopted at the UN Environment Assembly as an important step forward.
- In the recently concluded 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2022, India engaged constructively with all member states to develop a consensus on a resolution to drive global action against plastic pollution.
- Currently, 68 countries have plastic bag bans with varying degrees of enforcement.
What are the key features of Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022?
Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022
- It prohibited the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of plastic carry bags whose thickness is less than 75 microns.
- From December 31, 2022, plastic carry bags whose thickness is less than 120 microns will be banned.
- It means that the ban does not cover all plastic bags; however, it requires the manufacturers to produce plastic bags thicker than 75 microns which was earlier 50 microns.
- As per the notification, the standard shall be increased to 120 microns in December this year.
- The notification clearly mentioned that plastic or PVC banners/ hoardings should have more than 100 microns in thickness, and non-woven plastic (polypropylene) must be more than 60 GSM (grams per square metre).
- Non-woven plastic bags have a cloth-like texture but are counted among plastics. Still, plastic or PET bottles, counted among the most recyclable types of plastic, have been left out of the scope of the ban.
- Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022 provides for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) where it is the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life.
- These guidelines provide a framework to strengthen the circular economy of plastic packaging waste, promote the development of new alternatives to plastic packaging and provide the next steps for moving towards sustainable plastic packaging by businesses.
What are the items being banned from 1st July, 2022?
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have announced ban on following items:
- 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.
- Polystyrene for decoration.
- According to 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.
How will the ban be enforced?
- 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.
- Directions have also been issued to SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees to modify or revoke consent to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.
- Local authorities have been directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items will not be sold on their premises, and existing commercial licences will be cancelled if they are found to be selling these items.
- Recently, the CPCB issued one-time certificates to 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic and the BIS passed standards for biodegradable plastic.
- Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986 – which allows for imprisonment up to 5 years, or a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh, or both. 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.
What are the challenges in enforcing these bans ?
- Past experiences show that a ban becomes successful only if all stakeholders participate enthusiastically and engage in effective engagement and concerted actions.
- Previously almost 25 Indian States banned plastic at the state level but these bans had a very limited impact in reality because of the widespread use of these items.
- Challenge is to see how the local level authorities will enforce the ban in accordance with the guidelines.
- Banned items such as earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, etc., are non-branded items and it is difficult to find out who the manufacturer is and who is accountable for selling because these items will be available in the market even after the issuing of guidelines.
- Government should start an awareness campaign to bring entrepreneurs and start-ups, industry, Central, State and local Governments, regulatory bodies, experts, citizen organizations, R&D and academic institutions together.
- Consumers need to be informed about the ban through advertisements, newspaper or TV commercials, or on social media.
- In order to find sustainable alternatives, companies need to invest in research and development.
- Greener alternatives to plastic may be considered a sustainable option. For example, compostable and biodegradable plastic, etc.
- Engagement of all stakeholders as the solution to the plastic pollution problem is not the responsibility of the government alone, but of industries, brands, manufacturers and most importantly consumers.
Sources: The Hindu, Indian Express.
1.The Hindu:-https://bit.ly/3QwoSMU ; https://bit.ly/3QE9gY8