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On 73rd Independence Speech, PM Modi pitched to free India from Single-use plastic. A massive public campaign like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan will be launched mobilizing all stakeholders. This is another strong decision by the government against single-use plastic after when Union Minister of Environment, forest, and Climate Change said that India would try to “ruled out” single use of plastic by 2022 on World Environment Day 2018.

What are Single-Use Plastics?

Single-use plastics or the disposable plastics are those which can be used only once before they are recycled or disposed into the environment. For example, Straws, soda and water bottles, food packaging, etc. In India more than 20 states, have notified ban fully or partially on plastic like Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh has banned single-use plastic items like plastic bottles, disposal cups or containers, plastic bottles, multi-layered sachets for packing products like tobacco, etc. but many states like Bihar banned only on use of Polythene bags.

Pollution in India: According to the report of CPCB, plastic generated in states:

State Plastic waste generated tonnes per annum Registered manufacturing/recycling units Unregistered manufacturing/recycling units
UP 2.06 lakh 133 16
Gujarat 2.69 lakh 882 0
MP 0.61 lakh 71 20
Punjab 0.54 lakh 144 246
Nagaland 0.14 lakh 6 -
Odisha 0.12 lakh 20 -

Causes of Plastic Pollution:

  • Urbanization and Population Growth: increase the growth rate of population growth and urbanization also contributes to plastic pollution as with the increase of population and urban growth, the demand increases. In urban areas, only plastics are about 80% of the municipal waste.
  • Easy Availability of Plastic and Reckless Disposal: Plastics are easily available items all over the world. They are cheap items which are easy to manufacture also they get discarded easily. People don’t think of retaining or reusing them before their disposal. Eventually, it ends up to reckless disposal on roads, landfills, etc. and disposal of these items further causes different types of pollution like land pollution, air pollution, and water pollution.
  • Cheap and Affordable Manufacture: the production of plastic has increased tripled in recent decades with the rising demands of the consumers. However, it is easy to manufacture but it is a heavy burden on the environment.
  • Slow Decomposition rate: Due to strong chemical bonding of plastics they took years to decompose. Even the simplest plastic we got from grocery stores took at least 50 years to decompose while the many other items took more than 500 years to decompose. According to a statement given by Environmental Protection Agency, “Every bit of plastic ever made still exists” which means that as long as the new plastic continue to manufacture they will remain in the environment and contributing to the plastic pollution.
  • Marine fishing and fishing industry: Wastes from ships, sea accidents, fishing nets which is usually made up of plastic contribute to plastic pollution. The toxins which leaked into the water affects marine wildlife through ingestion of plastics.
  • Use of non-biodegradable plastic: about 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured every year and out of it only half is disposable. Petroleum-based plastic is difficult to recycle and usually goes into a landfill causing pollution.

Impacts of plastic pollution:

  • Plastic pollution causes contribute to land pollution, air pollution, water pollution, etc. which directly affect climate leading to various problems and natural disasters as well.
  • Economic Impact: Loss of tourism and fishing along with the cleaning of beaches and rivers affects the economy of the country.
  • Unsafe drinking water: According to a sample analyzed form 14 countries of the world including India, revealed 82.4% of the micro-plastic concentration in drinking water.
  • Effect on health: these toxins are now can be found in human bloodstream too and the latest research found them to disrupt the endocrine system which can cause infertility, birth defects, skin diseases, cancer and many other.

India’s Efforts to Beat Plastic Pollution:

  • Many of the Indian states and UTs have joined the mission to fight against plastic pollution by announcing a ban on single-use plastics like carrying bags, cups/containers, straws, and thermocouple products. In 2018, India won global acclaim for its “BEAT PLASTIC POLLUTION” theme declared on June 05 i.e. World Environment Day.
  • Bio-Medical Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018- to protect and preserve the environment and human health from the infectious bio-medical wastes generated from the hospitals and any other health institution.
  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016- According to the provisions, the minimum thickness of the plastic carry bags has been increased from 40 microns to 50 microns.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014 further helps in the reduction of pollution.
  • Penalizing on the violation under The Environment Protection Act 1986 with a prison term up to 7 years or a fine of Rs. 1 Lakh.

All these efforts by the government help to reduce the use of plastic, waste management, increase reuse of plastic. In Bengaluru, waste collective estimates that the amount of plastic waste they collect has been decreased. However, there are still some concerns and challenges in beating plastic pollution.

Concerns/Challenges:

  • Plastic packaging of food, cosmetics, groceries, goods delivered by eCommerce platforms is not addressed.
  • The ban on plastic mostly faced by the small producers while the big and organized covered under the clause of EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY and continue their business as usual.
  • Though The Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 has a provision that the producers, brand owners, and importers must adopt a collect back system for the plastic introduced by them into the environment, not much has been done for it.
  • As per the 2017-18 report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), only 14 states/UTs has submitted their annual reports to the board.

Solutions/Way forward

  • The center should make legislation to define what Single-use plastic is, which is necessary for determining the constituents of the single-use plastic.
  • The state and local governments should update their waste management systems to measure the packaging waste at a true scale.
  • Role of local bodies: consultation with the manufacturers to address the problem. Similarly, cities and towns need a competitive municipal system to achieve the goal of the mission.
  • Producers or manufacturers should be charged for the production of their wastes and collect it leading to recovery and recycling.
  • Awarding and felicitating the states would make states more competitive for reducing the pollution in their respective states.
  • Awareness among the people to reduce the use of plastic would be the most effective strategy to bring the change.
  • Strict monitoring and penalizing on the violation.
  • Alternatives of plastic should be used like cloth bags, paper bags, and other biodegradable plastics.
  • Developing infrastructure for recycling these products.

Some Best practices

  • Kannur district of Kerala has become India’s first plastic-free district. District administration of Kannur takes an initiative for discouraging the use of plastic bags and disposable items.
  • In France, all kinds of plastic are banned and with this France has become the first country to pass a law for banning them against plastic pollution

Conclusion

Collective and massive support from the government authorities and public is needed to safeguard our ecosystem by reducing or say no to plastics and with this, we can absolutely make India Free from Single-use plastic. As for where we live and dreamed of everything, we cannot make it as a “plastic planet”.