Nationwide ban on single-use plastics; use of alternatives to be prioritised

Beginning July 1, a ban on a slew of single-use plastic (SUP) products – identified to have low utility but high littering potential – became operational. This is in addition to the earlier ban on lightweight plastic bags (of thickness less than 75 microns) and non-woven plastic (less than 60 gm per sq m) that came into effect from September 1, 2021.

This is the first nationwide effort focused on supply-side interventions to tackle plastic waste. GoI has done a good job on the regulatory front by amending the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules and ensuring robust extended producer responsibility (EPR) norms. But the real test, as always, will be in implementation and ensuring compliance. Over the next six months, GoI should step up outreach, and keep track of implementation bottlenecks and compliance challenges.

Implementation and compliance are major challenges. Past efforts by states have been a mixed bag marked by patchy compliance. GoI must continue to work with state governments, local authorities, businesses and civil society to improve awareness, and address operational challenges.

The development and use of alternatives must be prioritised. With the global agreement on plastics in the works, this will be a growth area that will provide opportunities. Globally, SUPs account for a third of all plastic produced and for the bulk of the 130 million-odd metric tonnes of discarded plastic in 2019. India is among the top 100 SUP waste generators.

Despite the pandemic-driven disruption and massive uptick in plastic waste generation, GoI has kept to the schedule. Now, the focus must be to ensure the accrual of benefits of reduced SUP use, such as lower fossil fuel consumption and emissions, as well as of river and marine pollution.



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