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Single-use plastics

Topics Covered:

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Single-use plastics

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Ban on single- use plastics- significance.

 

Context: In response to Prime Minister’s call on India’s 73rdIndependence day, to make India free of single use plastics, a massive public campaign will be launched engaging all stakeholders.

 

What are single use plastics?

There is no central and comprehensive definition for single-use plastic, crucial for any ban to be successful. Governments currently use various definitions.  

Some states like Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh banned plastic bottles and Tetra packs, single-use straws, plastic/styrofoam tea cups/containers, etc. But many like Bihar banned only polythene bags.

 

India’s efforts to beat plastic pollution:

More than 20 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.

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.

A central legislation with a clear definition of what constitutes single-use plastic is also necessary.

 

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