Single-use plastic: What is banned, reason behind it & global scenario
For effective enforcement of the ban on identified SUP items from 1 July 2022, national and state-level control rooms will be set up and special enforcement teams will be formed for checking the illegal manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of banned single-use plastic items.
Come Friday, India bans the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential, all across the country.
With the adverse impacts of littered single-use plastic items plastic on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including in marine environments are globally recognised, addressing pollution due to single-use plastic items has become an important environmental challenge confronting all countries, according to a release.
In the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic product pollution, recognizing the urgent need for the global community to focus on this very important issue. The adoption of this resolution at UNEA 4 was a significant step.
The list of banned items includes -earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (Thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, already prohibit the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of plastic carry bags having a thickness less than seventy-five microns with effect from 30 September 2021, and having a thickness less than the thickness of one hundred and twenty microns with effect from the 31st December 2022.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has also notified the Guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility on plastic packaging as Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022 on 16th February 2022. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life. The Guidelines will provide a framework to strengthen the circular economy of plastic packaging waste, promote the development of new alternatives to plastic packaging and provide the next steps for moving towards sustainable plastic packaging by businesses.
Alternative Arrangements for Manufacturers
Capacity-building workshops are being organized for MSME units to provide them with technical assistance for manufacturing alternatives to banned single-use plastic items with the involvement of CPCB/SPCBs/PCCs along with the Ministry of Small Micro and Medium Enterprises and Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering (CIPET) and their state centres. Provisions have also been made to support such enterprises in transitioning away from banned single-use plastics. The Government of India has also taken steps to promote innovation and provide an ecosystem for accelerated penetration and availability of alternatives all across the country.
Enforcement of the Ban
For effective enforcement of the ban on identified SUP items from 1 July 2022, national and state-level control rooms will be set up and special enforcement teams will be formed for checking the illegal manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of banned single-use plastic items. States and Union Territories have been asked to set up border checkpoints to stop the inter-state movement of any banned single-use plastic items.
CPCB Grievance Redressal App has been launched to empower citizens to help curb the plastic menace. The Government has been taking measures for awareness generation towards the elimination of single-use plastics. The awareness campaign has brought together entrepreneurs and startups, industry, Central, State and Local Governments, regulatory bodies, experts, citizen organizations, R& D and academic institutions.
The success of the ban will only be possible through effective engagement and concerted actions by all stakeholders and enthusiastic public participation stated the ministry in a release.
Why should we ban plastics?
According to a UN Environment Programme report, around the world, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, while up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed for single-use purposes – used just once and then thrown away. Plastics including microplastics are now ubiquitous in our natural environment. They are becoming part of the Earth's fossil record and a marker of the Anthropocene, our current geological era. They have even given their name to a new marine microbial habitat called the "plastisphere".
From the 1950s to the 1970s, only a small amount of plastic was produced, and as a result, plastic waste was relatively manageable. However, between the 1970s and the 1990s, plastic waste generation more than tripled, reflecting a similar rise in plastic production. In the early 2000s, the amount of plastic waste we generated rose more in a single decade than it had in the previous 40 years. Today, globally about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated every year.
Today, globally about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated every year.
Approximately 36 per cent of all plastics produced are used in packaging, including single-use plastic products for food and beverage containers, approximately 85 per cent of which ends up in landfills or as unregulated waste. Additionally, some 98 per cent of single-use plastic products are produced from fossil fuel, or "virgin" feedstock. The level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics is forecast to grow to 19 per cent of the global carbon budget by 2040.
Of the seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated globally so far, less than 10 per cent has been recycled. Millions of tonnes of plastic waste are lost to the environment, or sometimes shipped thousands of kilometres to destinations where it is mostly burned or dumped. The estimated annual loss in the value of plastic packaging waste during sorting and processing alone is US$ 80- 120 billion.
Rivers and lakes carry plastic waste from deep inland to the sea, making them major contributors to ocean pollution. Despite current efforts, it is estimated that 75 to 199 million tonnes of plastic are currently found in oceans. It is estimated that 1,000 rivers are accountable for nearly 80% of global annual riverine plastic emissions into the ocean, which ranges between 0.8 and 2.7 million tonnes per year, with small urban rivers amongst the most polluting.
Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Those microplastics can enter the human body through inhalation and absorption and accumulate in organs. Microplastics have been found in our lungs, livers, spleens and kidneys, A study recently detected microplastics in the placentas of newborn babies. The full extent of the impact of this on human health is still unknown. There is, however, substantial evidence that plastics-associated chemicals, such as methyl mercury, plasticisers and flame retardants, can enter the body and are linked to health concerns.
In countries with poor solid waste management systems, plastic waste — especially single-use plastic bags — can be found clogging sewers and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and pests, and as a result, increasing the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as malaria.
Which countries have banned Single-Use Plastics?
With the ban on Single-Use Plastics from July 1, India joins an elite group of countries that are enforcing the ban on SUP in various stages. Some of the countries banning plastics are:
The ban on the manufacture and import of harmful single-use plastics, barring a few targeted exceptions to recognize specific cases, will come into effect across Canada in December 2022. To provide businesses in Canada with enough time to transition and deplete their existing stocks, the sale of these items will be prohibited as of December 2023. The Candian Government will also prohibit the export of plastics in the six categories by the end of 2025, making Canada the first among peer jurisdictions to do so internationally.
New Zealand had already banned most single-use plastic bags in 2019. According to a Guardian report, New Zealanders will be banning bags, earbuds, spoons and straws as the country's government attempts to match the country’s reality to its “clean green” reputation. Currently one of the top 10 per-capita producers of landfill waste in the world, New Zealand has announced it will ban a swathe of single-use plastics, including cotton buds, bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels. The bans will be phased in between 2022 and 2025. Officials estimate that the new policy will remove more than 2bn single-use plastic items from the country’s landfills and environment each year.
United States of America
While there is not yet a federal ban on single-use plastics in the United States, several states have completely done away with SUP. These include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. There’s also a long list of other states that have plastic bag bans in process.
In 2002, Bangladesh was the world’s first country to ban plastic shopping bags. But, after some time, plastic use and mismanagement increased again. Bangladesh progressively took steps in curbing plastic pollution, with varied outcomes and enforcing a complete ban continues to be a stiff battle for authorities.
Besides these nations, several other countries across the world are in various stages of enforcing a total ban on plastics, that are one of the top pollutants in the world.