“Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest”, Plastic has been a problem for an immemorial time. For a very long period, it has been in use, may it be in the form of packaging or be it disposable cutlery, or shopping bags. We can’t ignore the fact that how much ever it is making our life easy it is harming the environment in ways we can’t even imagine. Managing plastic garbage is becoming a difficult task for nations around the world, and India is no exception to it. “Therefore, the clarion call was given by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, to phase out single-use plastic items by 2022, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, on 12 August 2021.” As part of the “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsava” legacy, the nation is taking a stand-out action to reduce pollution brought on by unchecked and discarded plastic garbage. Beginning on July 1, 2022, India will outlaw the production, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of certain single-use plastic products that have been designated as having a high potential for littering and poor utility.
WHAT IS SINGLE-USE PLASTIC (SUPS)?
It refers to plastic packaging that cannot be used again and may or may not be recycled again depending on the plastic material type, hence its name. Some examples would be straws, plastic cutlery, plastic shopping bags, etc All these daily use substances pose very hazardous consequences to the environment. About 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, and half of it is throwaway. Only 10–13% of plastic products are recycled globally. A 2021 report by one of the Australian philanthropic organisations the Minderoo Foundation said single-use plastics account for a third of all plastic produced globally, with 98% manufactured from fossil fuels.
PLASTIC WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT 2021
The rules enjoin linked single-use plastic particulars which have low mileage and high littering eventuality by 2022. The manufacture, import, sock, distribution, trade, and use of the following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, goods shall be banned with effect from the 1st July 2022- earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, delicacy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene( Thermocol) for decoration; plates, mugs, spectacles, chopsticks similar as spoons, ladles, shanks, straws, servers, belting or packing flicks around sweet boxes, assignation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners lower than 100 microns, stirrers.
In order to stop littering due to feather light plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September 2021, the consistency of plastic carrier bags has been increased from fifty microns to seventy- five microns and to one hundred and twenty microns with effect from the 31st December 2022. This will also allow the exercise of plastic carry due to an increase in consistency. The plastic packaging waste, which isn’t covered under the phase- eschewal of linked single-use plastic particulars, shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Patron Responsibility of the Patron, importer, and Brand proprietor( PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. For effective perpetration of Extended Patron Responsibility, the Guidelines for Extended Patron Responsibility being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
THE ENVIRONMENT (PROTECTION) ACT, 1986
Sections in this act which used time and again to control and curb the production of plastic are as follows-
- “Section 3 of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides for power of the Central Government, to take all such measures as it deems necessary for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing controlling and abating environmental pollution.
- Section 6 of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides rule-making power of central government, by notification in the Official Gazette, in respect of all or any of the matters referred to in section 3 of the said act.
- Section 8 of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 restricts persons handling hazardous substances to comply with procedural safeguards as specified by the government from time to time.
- Section 25 of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides the power of the central government to make rules, by notification in the Official Gazette, for carrying out the purposes of this Act such as the standards in excess of which environmental pollutants shall not be discharged or emitted, the safeguards in compliance with which hazardous substances, and so on.”
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS AND COVERAGE OF THE PLASTIC BAN?
The CPCB and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) have issued a notice requesting that producers, suppliers, and users of single-use plastic products stop using these products and gradually phase them out in favour of more environmentally friendly and long-lasting substitutes. At the national, state, and municipal levels, instructions have been given. For instance, all petrochemical firms have been told not to supply raw materials to businesses that manufacture the prohibited commodities. Local government entities have also been told to issue new business licenses with the requirement that single-use plastic goods will not be sold on their premises and that active business licenses would be revoked if they are discovered to be selling these items. The Environment Protection Act of 1986, which allows for fines of up to Rs 1 lakh or imprisonment for up to five years, or both, can be used on those who are found to be violating the ban, according to the regulations in place as of July 1. The State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), which will submit regular reports to the Center, as well as the CPCB from the Center will monitor the ban. Environment, Forests, and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav announced that the centre will set up control rooms at the federal and state levels to guarantee that the ban is effectively enforced. The Central Pollution Control Board and specialized enforcement teams will keep an eye on these control rooms.
PREVIOUS SIMILAR BANS IN INDIA
A fine of Rs. 25,000 was imposed by the Himachal Pradesh government in 2019 for selling or littering single-use plastic cutlery. Th usage and selling of plastic cutlery using single-use, non-biodegradable plastic has been outlawed by the state government. In India, this state was the first to enact a ban on single-use plastics in 2009. The Himachal Pradesh government has been working to reduce plastic trash in the state’s urban and rural areas ever since. The Maharashtra government banned single-use plastics in 2018. Due to poor knowledge, aggressive business lobbying, and a dearth of real alternatives, it did not, however, take hold. India’s courageous decision to ban single-use plastic should be commended, but it cannot be the only solution to the plastic pollution problem. According to experts or professionals, the general public needs to be made aware of the issue and given access to more affordable options.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
In the shape of the European Union plastics strategy, the EU or European Union developed a clear goal and provided the sector with a 3-year window until 2021 to phase out 10 specified SUP items. The single-use plastic ban has already been fully or partially enacted in about 60 countries. Cities like Boston and Washington, DC, have levied charges on plastic bags to discourage people from using them. Straws, utensils, plastic bags, and cups have all been prohibited in Taiwan since 2019. Plastic bags are already prohibited at South Korea’s largest stores, and offenders face fines of about $2,700.
Israel suggested imposing a double purchase tax on disposable plastic utensils and SUP. According to research by the nation’s ministry of environmental protection, the change is anticipated to lower usage by 41%. In 2002, Bangladesh became the first nation to outlaw thin plastic bags. In July 2019, New Zealand became the most recent nation to outlaw plastic bags. 2020 saw the issuance of a phased-in ban on plastic bags in China. With varying levels of enforcement as of July 2019, 68 countries have outlawed the use of plastic bags. Single-use plastic bag bans have been enacted by eight US states, starting with California in 2014. In 2018, Seattle became the first significant US city to outlaw plastic straws.
The prohibition of single-use plastic is only a modest step toward achieving sustainable development. The current situation requires that all nations raise their level of environmental consciousness and acknowledge the absence of a “Planet B” in the universe. To prevent additional environmental degradation, strict adherence to the aforementioned rules is urgently required. Plastic is a problem since it not only harms marine and land creatures but also pollutes the air, water, and land, which negatively affects human health and quality of life. A thorough analysis of the laws already in place in other countries and the reasons why they are not effectively applied in India must be conducted, and the governments of the relevant states must then introduce effective legislation and awareness campaigns for the general public.
Author(s) Name: Suhani Agarwal (Nirma University, Ahmedabad)