Pollution from single-use plastic items has become a major environmental challenge for all countries. India has made a commitment to take action to reduce pollution caused by littered Single Use Plastics. Single-use plastics, also known as disposable plastics, are used only once before being discarded or recycled.
Plastic is so inexpensive and convenient that it has supplanted all other materials in the packaging industry, but it takes hundreds of years to degrade. According to the data, single-use plastic accounts for 43 percent of the 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in our country each year. Furthermore, petroleum-based plastic is also not biodegradable and is usually buried in a landfill or gets into the water and ends up in the ocean. Toxic chemicals (additives used to shape and harden the plastic) are released during the breakdown process and end up in our food and water supply. Pollution from single-use plastic items has become a major environmental challenge for all countries, and India is committed to taking action to reduce pollution caused by littered Single Use Plastics.
At the 2019 United Nations Environment Assembly, India piloted a resolution addressing single-use plastic pollution.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also awarded India's Prime Minister the "champions of the earth" award in 2018 for pledging to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022.
What are the Rules?
Classification of Plastics
The new rules classify plastics into three categories:
Category One will include rigid plastic packaging;
Category Two will include flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches;
Category Three will include Multi-layered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic).
The identification of single-use plastic items to be phased out was based on a report by an expert committee formed by the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC) as directed by the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers on SUP. India has defined SUP as “a plastic commodity intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled” in its Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
Manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of the following single-use plastic commodities, It includes polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, which will be prohibited beginning July 1, 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.
To reduce littering caused by light weight plastic carry bags, the thickness of plastic carry bags increased from 50 microns to 75 microns with effect from 30th September 2021and to 120 microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022.
The ban will not apply to commodities made of compostable plastic.
The Central Pollution Control Board, in collaboration with state pollution control boards, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties as outlined in the Environmental Protection Act of 1986.
The special task force for the elimination of SUP(Single use plastic) and the effective implementation of the PWM(plastic waste management) Rules, 2016, was formed by states and UTs. The Environment Ministry has also established a national-level task force to coordinate initiatives. State/UT governments and concerned Central Ministries/Departments have also been asked to develop a comprehensive action plan for the elimination of SUP and its timely implementation.
Plastic packaging waste that is not covered by the phase out of identified single-use plastic items must be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable manner under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) of the Producer, importer, and Brand owner (PIBO), according to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
India has become the first Asian country to develop a plastics pact in order to create a plastics circular system. The India Plastics Pact (IPP) was formed through a collaboration between WWF India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)
Alternatives such as cotton, khadi bags, and biodegradable plastics must be promoted. More R&D (Research and Development) and funding are required to look for long-term viable options. To reduce plastic pollution, countries must embrace circular and sustainable economic practises throughout the plastics value chain.
A circular economy is based on resource reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing, and recycling to create a closed-loop system that reduces resource use, waste generation, pollution, and carbon emissions.
Citizens must bring about behavioural change and contribute by not littering. They must assist in waste segregation and waste management.