Plastic ban in India, Challenge, Suggestion and Alternatives

By Jyoti Verma

Plastic Ban in India

With Prime Minister Narender Modi’s declaration on the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, to make India free of Single-Use Plastic completely to combat pollution by 2022 a nationwide ban on the same came into existence in October 2019.

 

What is Single-Use Plastic?

Plastic products are designed and made to be used for one time and are supposed to be thrown after use. They are disposable items like plastic bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, straws, polythene bags, etc.

 

What is the need to ban?

1. Because of the harmful gases they produce.
2. Inability to decompose
3. Soil Contamination
4. Health Hazards it poses
5. Environmental Pollution

 

Harmful effects of Plastic

Plastic is harmful to the environment, animals, humans and the entire composition of the earth including air, water, greenery, living beings. As per the world wildlife fund (WWF) It is a non-biodegradable product and it takes years to disintegrate. It is next to impossible to decompose it as the process takes thousands of years.

This gets collected on the earth in the form of debris and wreckage and contaminates the soil.

The chemicals used to produce plastic are very harmful and keep on getting transmitted to animal tissues and the human food chain.

Birds and animals often take the debris of plastic bags and wrappers as food in confusion and become a victim of fatal health hazards.

It goes to fish in thousands of tons of quantity and from there reaches the food chain to marine mammals. According to scientists a large amount of plastic has been found in the intestine of oceanic mammals which reaches the human chain causing fatal diseases like cancer in humans.

WWF claims that a person could be consuming 5 grams of plastic a week. It can kill 1 million seabirds every year and around 700 species around the world get affected because of it.

According to a UN Plastic collective report an estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s and is still disturbing the land and its dwellers because of hazardous noxious effects.

According to a report India alone generates 9.46 tonnes of plastic waste every year. Out of which 40% remains uncollected. This has hazardous effects not just on human health rather for the whole environment.

 

The decision to ban Plastic

The country prepared itself for the new rules as One India – Pollution Free India. Almost every state tried to put a curb on the use of plastic and search has been going on to find an alternative to plastic usage.

About 18 States Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat have banned ‘one-time use and throw away plastic items’ like cutlery, plates, cups, straws, etc.
Sikkim initiated this ban in 1998. A major landslide in the state occured because of heavy rainfall. This forced the state Government to ban single-use plastic, as according to experts Plastic waste blocked the system.To implement the policy the government in the state ran educative campaign to educate the people ,fines were imposed for using plastic to stop its usage.All these steps helped the citizens of the state to accept this ban.

Across the country, for the time being the government asked the states to put a stop on storing, manufacturing and using some single-use plastic products such as polythene bags.

As of now the government is promoting voluntary steps by educating the people. Very strict actions are yet not being taken.

 

Challenges to curb

This movement is a challenge because of the non-availability of effective alternatives to plastic containers and several economic issues.
According to a news report, Hiten Bheda, Chairman of the Environment Committee of the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association, says India’s plastic industry recorded an annual revenue worth Rs 3.5-lakh crore in FY19. This was spread across 50,000 processing units, the bulk of these being small and medium enterprises. It is one of the fastest-growing industries in India as it sees its fortunes linked to the growth of every other industry. These units, according to Bheda, consume around 22 million metric tonnes per annum of plastic raw material; including recycled plastics (roughly about 8 million metric tonnes recycled plastic). Besides, some part of the total raw plastic material is also exported — it was to the tune of around $4.5 billion in FY19, while the exports of processed plastic products were at around $6.5 billion, says Bheda. On the share of single-use plastics, he says, while the exact share of single-use plastics is difficult to estimate, it could be less than 10 percent of the total plastic processed by these 50,000 odd units.  

There is a demand to exempt Pharmaceuticals, multilayered sachets, and health products from this ban to avoid any disruption in the supply chains.

 

Alternatives

There are many suggested alternatives to plastic such as glass, cardboard but they have their own ill effects on the environment. Glass leaves carbon footprints and uses a lot of energy and is not cost-effective, paper and cardboard usage means cutting trees etc. So every alternative has its challenges.

Search is still going on to find an effective alternative.

 

Suggestions

First thing is that merely putting a curb is not enough we have to find an effective alternative and second is that we have to find segregation and waste management ways which are eco-friendly. Recycling processes can also be one way.

Educating and sensitizing people can be done easily and it is being done. The challenge is for everything we have to create funds again.

 

Initiatives

Indian Government, its state governments are putting a lot of efforts to curb this hazard and in response to their efforts few companies like amazon have also come forward to support this cause.
According to news in Business Today:

Amazon India tells Business Today that "we have been working towards reducing our single use plastic consumption over the last year and we have significantly reduced dependence on this. It constitutes less than 7 percent of total packaging material and by June 2020, the aim is to completely eliminate single-use plastic in packaging. By the year-end any Amazon package received will have no single use plastic but paper instead.

Concluding, I would like to say that now people are quite aware and everyone is putting its bit to stop ills and find eco friendly ways to run the shows .The best solution is to be aware and make conscious efforts on an individual level and collective level till something effective comes. It will make the earth a better place to live in and we owe this to nature which has given us so much.

 

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