10,000 tonnes of plastic waste is left uncollected every day.
India’s policy on single-use plastic has been much in the news, with reports that a ban is in the offing. What are single-use plastics and why aren’t they have been banned if they pose a major environmental threat?
What is single-use plastic?
Single-use plastics, often also referred to as disposable plastics, are commonly used for packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery. Plastic packaging is mostly single-use, especially in business-to-consumer applications, and a majority of it is discarded the same year it is produced. Such plastics are problematic because they are not biodegradable.
Is there an imminent ban on single-use plastic?
There is no ban in the works. Union Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadker in a briefing said: “…Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t say ‘ban’, but said ‘goodbye’ to single-use plastic waste. From October 2, we will begin an attempt to collect all that waste. Nearly 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste remains uncollected.”
This was in the context of Mr. Modi’s exhortations to Indians to eschew the use of single-use plastic by October 2, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Why is it difficult to ban single-use plastics?
India has Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2018. One of its key obligations is to have industries that make products that ultimately employ plastic (and generate plastic waste) collect a fixed percentage every year. The State Pollution Control Boards as well municipalities have the responsibility to ensure that plastic waste is collected and sent to recycling units.
Compared to other countries such as the U.S. and China, India has very low per capita generation of plastic waste. However, in real terms, this is quite substantial and nearly 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste is left uncollected every day.
Studies by organisations like The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) on landfills have found that 10.96% of waste was only plastic and of these, non-recyclable plastics accounted for 9.6%. The disparity is because certain kinds of plastic, such as PET bottles are remunerative for rag pickers as they are in demand at recycling facilities.
Source: The Hindu