General Studies IIIEnvironment and Ecology

Ban on Single Use Plastic


Recently, the Ministry Of Environment Forest And Climate Change has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.

  • These rules prohibit specific single-use plastic items which have “low utility and high littering potential” by 2022.

Ban on Single Use Plastic

  • The Centre has banned single-use plastic beginning July next year. The items would fall under its purview — cutlery, earbuds and ice cream sticks, among others.
  • “The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of… single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022.
  • Polythene bags with thickness less than 50 microns are already banned in the country. Now, the Ministry has chalked out a phased manner of banning-single use carry bags as well as other commodities.
    • From September 30 this year, polythene bags under 75 microns will not be allowed.
    • From December 31 next year, polythene bags under 120 microns will be banned.
  • The reasoning behind the rules that we have come out with is that we have eliminated the plastic for which the cost of collection was huge as well as having a high environmental cost on one hand, but the economic cost is little
    • It is found that rag-pickers find thicker plastic bags have higher value than thinner ones. Plastic bags with higher thickness are more easily handled as waste and have higher recyclability.
  • The ban of plastic carry bags under 75 microns can come into effect immediately because manufacturers can continue using the same machines for producing plastic bags above 50 microns. They have given more time to industry before implementing the 120 micron plastic bag, because to produce these they need to install a different kind of machine
  • The items that will be banned beginning next year are—Earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons and knives, straw, trays, wrapping films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100-microns and stirrers.
  • The ban will not apply to commodities made of compostable plastic.
  • Some states, such as Karnataka, have already enforced bans on the items mentioned in the draft notification.

Implementing Agency:

The Central Pollution Control Board, along with state pollution bodies, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties already prescribed under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.

Plastic waste in India

  • As much as 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic waste was generated in India in 2018-19, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report 2018-19. This roughly translated to 9,200 tonnes a day (TPD).
  • The total municipal solid waste generation is 55-65 million tonnes; plastic waste is approximately 5-6 per cent of the total solid waste generated in the country. Goa has the highest per capita plastic waste generation at 60 grams per capita per day, which is nearly double of what Delhi generates (37 grams per capita per day).
  • The annual report was compiled based on submissions from the state pollution control boards (SPCB), though the source of the data provided is unclear as no state-wise survey has been conducted so far.  
  • It is important, however, to note that the estimations of the report are substantially lower than the ones mentioned in the 2015 CPCB report on Assessment and quantification of Plastic Waste Generation in major Cities. It extrapolated data based on the findings from 60 cities in India. It reported that close to 25,940 TPD (approximately 9.4 million tonnes per annum) of plastic waste was generated in the country.
  • Clearly, we do not know the amount of plastic we generate as a country, as the increase in wealth and affluence contributes to a higher generation of plastic waste.
  • Despite the Plastic Waste Management legislation of 2011, followed by numerous changes in the recent past, most parts of the country lack systematic efforts required to mitigate the risks associated with plastic waste.
  • The states started providing data on the same only in 2018-19 for the first time. A legal obligation has been reduced to a mere formality, and there is a lack of concern, motivation, awareness, compliance and enforcement of the rules.

Challenges posed:

  • Petroleum-based plastic is not biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean.
  • Plastic in oceans and forests are choking flora and fauna. In fact, plastic trash is expected to exceed the fish population in 2050.
  • Microplastics have ability to enter food chain with the highest concentration of the pollutants.
  • The PWM Rules Amendment, 2018, omitted explicit pricing of plastic bags that had been a feature of the 2016 Rules.
  • Waste plastic from packaging of everything from food, cosmetics and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.
  • The fast moving consumer goods sector that uses large volumes of packaging, posing a higher order challenge.
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure for segregation and collection is the key reason for inefficient plastic waste disposal.
  • Small producers of plastics are facing the ban, while more organised entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.
  • Lack of consultation with stakeholders such as manufacturers of plastics, eateries and citizen groups: This leads to implementation issues and inconvenience to the consumers.
  • Exemptions for certain products such as milk pouches and plastic packaging for food items severely weaken the impact of the ban.
  • No investment in finding out alternative materials to plug the plastic vacuum: Until people are able to shift to a material which is as light-weight and cheap as plastic, banning plastic will remain a mere customary practice.
  • Lack of widespread awareness among citizens about the magnitude of harm caused by single-use plastic: Without citizens ‘buying in’ to a cause, bans only result in creating unregulated underground markets.
  • No strategy to offset the massive economic impact: Sweeping bans like the one in Maharashtra are likely to cause massive loss of jobs and disruption of a large part of the economy dependent on the production and use of plastic.

The way ahead

Plastic, without doubt, is the miracle commodity that has uses ranging from increasing shelf lives of eatables to medical equipment and automotive. Managing plastic waste requires effective knowledge, not only among those who produce the plastic, but also among those who handle it.

Brand owners, consumers, recyclers and regulatory authorities need to take long strides in ensuring that we first inventorise the total amount of plastic waste that we generate by means of proper calculations.

The second step would be to identify the avenues where the use of plastic can be minimised. Third, the brand owner and manufacturer should try and understand the fates a plastic packaging material would meet after its purpose of packaging has been served.

Last, as consumers, we should ensure that all plastic waste leaving our homes is segregated and is not contaminated with food waste.

Initiatives to Curb Plastic Waste

  • Swachh Bharat Mission
  • India Plastics Pact
  • Project REPLAN
  • Un-Plastic Collective
  • GoLitter Partnerships Project


Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021

Keeping in view the adverse impacts of littered plastic on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 12, 2021.

The rules prohibits identified single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.  

The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022:-

  • ear buds 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 packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards,  and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.

In order to stop littering due to light weight plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September, 2021, the thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from fifty microns to seventy five microns and to one hundred and twenty microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022. This will also allow reuse of plastic carry due to increase in thickness.

The plastic packaging waste, which is not covered under the phase out of identified single use plastic items, shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility of the Producer, importer and Brand owner (PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. For effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility the Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.

To access the complete Rules, click here.

Source: Indian Express

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