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This Environment Day, Know What India’s Single-Use Plastic Ban Means For You

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued the draft Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021 in which they proposed a blanket ban on a number of plastic items, amongst other things.

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India is looking to phase out its single-use plastics by 2025. But how will we manage to overcome this Herculean feat when the country consumes over 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic a year?

On 11 March, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued the draft Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021 in which they proposed a blanket ban on a number of plastic items, amongst other things.

This follows India’s announcement at the 2019 United Nations Environment Assembly, where it piloted a resolution calling for a global phase-out of single-use plastics by 2025.

Reducing Plastic Waste

These amendments to the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016 seek to improve the collection, segregation, refining, treatment, and disposal of plastic waste in a sustainable manner. This will in turn reduce waste generation and its environmental effects. Although a number of State Governments have already issued their own notifications prohibiting the use of disposable carry bags and single-use plastic, this move by the Central Government is a welcome step towards a unifying effort.

Moving towards sustainable and environmentally conscious management of waste is an important priority and reducing single-use plastic is the first step towards this.

Internationally, both Agenda 2030 and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also aim towards reduction of plastic, with SDG 12 being “to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. An integral part of SDG 12 is reduction of plastic waste, and implementing this Notification will hopefully help further this goal.

It is also crucial that we make our voices heard and do our duty as environmentally conscious and responsible citizens.

The People’s Perspectives

A total of 28 respondents contributed to the Amendments to Plastic and Waste Management Rules that formally closed on 11 May 2020. While most individuals supported the ban and felt like it was a progressive step taken by the government, some offered a holistic view of the implications of a policy like this.

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Mridula Joshi, founder of Ullisu, a sustainable product business, says, “We need to culturally prepare the public about the plastic ban. They need to empathise with it, rather than fear it. Therefore I feel a law like this needs to be implemented gradually as opposed to a blanket ban.”

Another environmental activist, Aakash Ranison, feels that this ban will come as a respite on the waste-pickers and others directly working in this industry due to the harmful chemicals they deal with on a regular basis. Given that plastic comes from crude oil, he says, “We’re already too late to stop climate change. Hence, there should be no further delay to pass a law like this.”

A lot of respondents were also able to provide positive resolutions and suggestions that might strengthen the result of such a policy. They feel like providing smaller businesses with an incentivised plastic alternative, encouraging alternate sources of livelihood and placing the packaging industries under restrictions might help create a ripple effect for India to stop using plastic and start thinking sustainably.

The Notification Calls For:

  • Complete prohibition on the use of plastic bags, sheets or like with thickness less than 50 microns.
  • No longer using plastic sachets for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.
    Banning the import, sale, use, and manufacture of single-use plastics across the country due to their high environmental effects and impact on marine habitats
  • Expanding the scope of application of the 2016 Rules to include brand-owners and plastic waste processors (recyclers, co-processors, etc).

The 2021 Rules also add new definitions to the law. Non-woven plastic bags are to be defined as plastic bags made up of sheet or web-structured fabric of entangled fibers or filaments bonded together by mechanical, thermal, or chemical means. Non-woven fabric is defined as a flat or tufted porous sheet that is made directly from fibres, molten plastic, or plastic films. And Plastic Waste Processing is defined as any process by which plastic waste is handled for the purpose of reuse, recycling, co-processing or transformation into new products.

The largest provision in this notification is the ban on single-use plastic, through manufacture, distribution, stocking, sale and use of certain products will be prohibited in two phases. The first phase begins on 1 January 2022, when products like earbuds, plastic flags, and candy sticks, among others, will be banned. The second phase, from 1 July 2022, bans single-use plastics, including plates, cups, glasses, and cutlery, invitation cards, cigarette packets, and plastic banners of less than 100 micron.

You can help shape policies like these by giving your comments to the Central Government in the form of a response — whether it’s an addition, an implementation idea, or something else. At Civis, we’ve created a space where you can discuss the issue with other concerned citizens and submit your responses directly without the hassle of worrying about the method. Head on over to civis.vote to do your part, and speak to the government.

(Written by Kopal Mital, Arushi Sethi, Manasa Kashi, Research Fellows at Civis; Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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