- The ban on single-use plastic products did not yield effective results due to implementation and enforcement gaps which have to be addressed.
- India has defined single-use plastic as disposable plastics that are commonly used for packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
- The central government had prohibited the usage of following identified single use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential from 1st July, 2022 under Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
- Earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice- cream sticks, polystyrene [Thermocol] for decoration;
- Plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packaging films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
- It also prohibited manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of plastic carry bags having thickness less than seventy-five microns from 30th September 2021, and having thickness less than thickness of one hundred and twenty microns from 31st December, 2022.
Current status of plastic ban
- Although some of the bulk consumers of single use plastics have switched to biodegradable alternatives, most other producers, sellers, and consumers of the use-and-throw plastic stuff continues their business as usual.
- Lack of noticeable improvement in the system of collection and safe disposal of discarded plastic material exacerbates the menace of plastic pollution.
- Thrown-away plastic products, apart from littering roads and piling up at landfill sites, have started polluting water bodies.
Evidences for plastic ban failure
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recently said that the use of disposable plastic items, particularly thin carrybags is continuing in the low-end section of the economy.
- A recent anti-plastic drive carried out in Kerala led to the confiscation of 25 tonnes of proscribed plastic material.
- A 100-day “beat plastic campaign”culminated in Delhi recently resulted in the seizure of over 14,000 kg of outlawed plastic items. Delhi is the largest producer of plastic waste among all the metropolitan cities in the country.
Reasons for plastic ban failure
Lackadaisical enforcement of the Plastic Waste Management Rules:
- While the prohibition of the use of single use plastics was imposed by the Centre, its implementation was left to the states and their pollution control boards.
- Centre failed in taking up follow-up action on bulk consumers switching over to biodegradables.
- Centre failed to ensure states to put in place an effective legal framework for plastic waste management.
- For instance, Though the local government of Delhi had framed the Plastic Waste Management Rules way back in 2019, these are yet to be notified.
- The other major reason for the failure of the ban on disposable plastic ware is inadequate availability of their cost-effective alternatives.
- Investment in research and development of suitable substitutes for use-and-throw plastic goods still remains low and it also lacks government’s incentives.
- A well-advised multi-pronged strategy is needed instead of a piecemeal approach to address this issue comprehensively right from production to retrieval and appropriate recycling or disposing of the limited-utility plastic products is needed.