One of the widespread causes of pollution is Single-use plastic. Single-use plastic is defined as a plastic aimed to be used once for the same cause before being disposed of or recycled.” Single-use plastics are products that are created largely from chemicals derived from fossil fuels. Plastic drinking bottles, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic bottle caps, straws and stirrers, plastic lids, and some more types of plastic bags and foam takeaway containers are a few usual single-use plastics found around us as stated by U.N. Environment. Only 10% to 13% of plastic products are recycled globally. One-third of all the plastics produced globally are single-use plastics of which 130 million metric tons of plastic are discarded globally. Among the countries, India placed 94th in the single-use plastic waste generation the total generation being 5.6 MMT and a per capita generation of 4 kg.
When plastics are left alone, they do not break down but rather, crack up in due course and turn into micro-plastics due to the effect of the sun and the heat. The slow degradation of plastics is due to their chemical structure that makes the plastic unaffected by the natural action of decaying.
Plastic and the way it causes Pollution:
Most of the single-use plastic items that are thrown away after using only once are not recycled thus allowing a path to pollution. Somehow single-use plastics lead to pollution are :
- A large amount of plastic accumulates in waterways as the plastic on the streets is taken away by rain or storms into the rivers and the streams.
4.8 million and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic per year are carried away into the oceans by only the people living within 30 miles of the coast. This is an approximate calculation by researchers from the University of Georgia made in 2015.
- Plastic is swallowed by marine animals and seabirds, which might lead to their death. Due to it, the seafood consumed by humans is contaminated disturbing health.
Researchers suggest that exposure to many of the chemicals in plastic termed endocrine disrupters may have adverse health effects on humans, including hormone abnormalities, reproductive issues like sterility, and sometimes even cancer.
- Plastic also has an alarming impact on the world climate. A recent report showed that the emission of greenhouse gas includes the contribution from the production of plastic, which is warming our planet and is very dangerous.
PLASTIC WASTE MANAGEMENT RULES,2016
The 2016 Plastic Waste Management Rules were an effort to upgrade the law formulation, and the responsibility for assembling the base for accumulation, differentiation, carrying out, and throwing away of plastic waste was of the local body. The idea of Extended Producer Responsibility under which the producers are given an important authority for clearing waste generated through their articles came up in the year 2018 with the amendments made to the previous rules. Further, the National Green Tribunal hit 25 states and union territories as they didn’t put forward the methods on how they could abide by the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016 until 30th April 2019 and had disregarded the order.
BAN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC IN INDIA
The Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change delivered a bulletin that said, ” The Manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of consequent single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall prohibit with effect from the 1st July 2022.” The material on which the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has- declared a ban are earbuds, balloon sticks, candy and ice cream sticks, cutlery items including plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, trays, sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packs, PVC banners measuring under 100 microns; and polystyrene for decoration. The reason behind choosing this set of items is, that it becomes troublesome to gather them for reprocessing, unlike the larger items. It is improbable to have large economic consequences as the materials selected are of little worth and small turnover. In September 2021, polythene bags of less than 75 microns were banned by the ministry, the previous limit was 50 microns. The producer needs time to transfer to thick polythene bags that would be simple to convert hence the ban to be brought down in stages.
THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE BAN
CPCB at the center to coordinate the ban and the State Pollution Control Board(SPCBs) will give the account to the center periodically. The following prescription is published:
- MSME units to arrange for capacity-building seminars to give scientific cooperation for the production of substitutes for banned SUPs.
- To encourage innovation and supply an ecosystem for quickened perforation measures are taken by the Government of India.
- For examination of illegal production, import, storing, circulation, vending, and utilization of banned SUPs creation of National and State level control rooms and special enforcement groups will take place. Steps like border checkpoints to end the flow of any banned SUP between states will be executed.
- To entitle people to help control plastic risk, the CPCB Grievance Redressal App has been initiated. Recently, the PRAKRITI – mascot was inaugurated on 5th April to curb plastic pollution.
- The Government has been taking actions to awareness the causation of the liquidation of SUPs. Measures like the launching of Awareness Campaigns are taking place to educate the people regarding the side effects of using SUPs.
VIOLATION OF BAN ON SUPs AS PER LAW
Failing to adhere to these new rules laid out by the Government, will attract punishment as per the Environment Protection Act of 1986, which implies that violators may face a jail term of up to five years or INR 1 lakh penalty or both. The SPCB may ask the violators to pay for the Environmental Damage Compensation. If the violations would repeat, it could mean additional fines up to Rs 5000 for each day. The EP Act has different penalties for companies, organizations, and government departments. 
OTHER COUNTRIES DEALING WITH SINGLE-USE PLASTIC
Until July 2019, a total of 68 countries have banned plastic bags but the level of implementation differs. To end plastic pollution, 124 member countries in the United Nations Environment Assembly endorsed a decision to make an accord that will be legally mandatory for the endorser to handle the entire life of plastics beginning with manufacturing until getting rid of them. The first country to ban thin plastic bags in the year 2002 was Bangladesh. Other countries like Canada, eight states of the U.S, etc. took steps toward banning plastic.
IMPACT OF BAN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC
Single-use plastic has emerged as a pivotal industry giving employment to many people in the country, having an annual turnover of more than Rs 60 thousand crores, but the ban might lead to loss of livelihood in the country. CAIT has pleaded to extend the last date of exacting the ban on SUPs to one year from July 1, 2022, and also urged to suggest equitable alternatives so that without any hindrances the country stops using Single-use plastics. The banks and the financial institutions have a considerable stake in the single-use plastic industry and a situation of a complete ban without providing any equitable alternative will cause massive destruction in the working vertical of retail trade in India.
We have seen the alarming growth rate of plastic production since the 1970s moreover if the trend continues then it is likely to reach 1,100 million tons by 2050. Thus, it is a big challenge for the country to enforce the ban on single-use plastics. But the enforcement should not mean an attack on the poor. The poor vendors are prohibited to use SUPs in the name of the SUP ban but the selling of shampoo sachets and chips packets are protected as they are thick, the truth is these items end up going into the drainages and creating more pollution so these risks are to be checked. With the onset of the pandemic, the use of PPE kits and masks has risen, yet being the necessities used everywhere contributing to the pollution. Promotion of eco-friendly alternatives like the use of cloth bags, opting for bamboo cutlery, paper straws, etc. but while introducing these substitutes the balance of nature should not get disturbed that could happen if usage of paper increases leading to cutting down of more trees hampering the environment hence the stability must be maintained. Preference for the ideas like total end on the production of SUPs and techniques like the bacteria eating the plastics must be prioritized. It is necessary to create awareness among the people on how SUPs are harmful to the environment and the need for sustainability. Accordingly, strict action against those who violate the ban and high charges if the concerned authority takes a bribe or makes use of false demonstration of the ban. We should come up with technologies that recycle plastic more efficiently so that plastic waste is recycled and reused. It is our responsibility to stop using SUP to protect our planet.
Author(s) Name: Vedika Nitin Jadhav (Mumbai University)
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