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Half done: on the ban on plastic

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Half done: on the ban on plastic

 

India’s efforts to beat plastic pollution:

So far, 22 States and Union Territories have joined the fight to beat the plastic pollution, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products. Puducherry will implement a ban from March 1.

India has also won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day last year, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

All such efforts have yielded positive results: Voluntary initiatives are having an impact in many States, as citizens reduce, reuse and sort their waste. A Bengaluru waste collective estimates that the volume of plastic waste that they collect dropped from about two tonnes a day to less than 100 kg.

 

Gaps existing:

Waste plastic from packaging of everything from food, cosmetics and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.

Collect-back system: The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 are clear that producers, importers and brand owners must adopt a collect-back system for the plastic they introduce into the environment. However, not much has been done to take the process forward.

Extended Producer Responsibility clause: Small producers of plastics are facing the ban, while more organised entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.

 

What is needed?

Governments must start charging the producers for their waste, and collect it diligently, which will lead to recovery and recycling.

State and local governments should upgrade their waste management systems, which is necessary to even measure the true scale of packaging waste.

Role of local bodies: Local bodies should consult manufacturers or importers to assess the problem. Cities and towns need competent municipal systems to achieve this.

 

Background- The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 aim to:

Increase minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate minimum thickness of 50 micron for plastic sheets also to facilitate collection and recycle of plastic waste,

Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also:

  • To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, to introduce collect back system of plastic waste by the producers/brand owners;
  • To introduce collection of plastic waste management fee;
  • To promote use of plastic waste for road construction for gainful utilization of waste and also address the waste disposal issue;

 

Conclusion:

The indiscriminate disposal of plastic has become a major threat to the environment. An eco-friendly product, which is a complete substitute of the plastic in all uses, has not been found till date.  In the absence of a suitable alternative, it is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country. The real challenge is to improve plastic waste management systems.

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: India has made a lot of progress in reducing plastic waste but a lot more still needs to be done. Comment.

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