Centre lays down plan to phase out single-use plastics by 2022

The ministry has issued a draft notification on March 11 which lays down how various single-use plastic products will be prohibited in phases next year. The All India Plastics Manufacturers Association, however, underlined that the move could impact at least 1 million jobs
Representational Image. (File photo)
Representational Image. (File photo)
Updated on Mar 15, 2021 01:34 PM IST
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ByJayashree Nandi

The Union environment ministry has proposed to implement a countrywide ban on manufacture, use, sale, import and handling of some of the single-use plastic products by 2022.

The ministry has issued a draft notification on March 11 which lays down how various single-use plastic products will be prohibited in phases next year.

For example, the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene [thermocol] for decoration will be prohibited from January 1, 2022. Further, the ban will be extended to single-use plastic (including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene) plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping/packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic/PVC banners less than 100 micron and stirrers from July 1, 2022.

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The Centre has also decided to increase thickness of polythene bags from at least 50 microns in thickness to at least 120 microns from September 9, 2021.

“Considering the high environmental costs associated with management of single-use plastics, particularly the adverse effect on marine environment, and the need for a definitive action supplementing the initiative undertaken by various states/UTs to combat plastic pollution, it is proposed that a prohibition on the manufacture, use, sale, import and handling of some of the single-use plastic items may be imposed on a pan India basis,” the draft states, adding that a preliminary analysis of state level action on restricting plastic carry bags and some single-use plastic items suggests that many challenges have been faced in the implementation of these regulatory provisions. But some states have achieved considerable success.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called on people to stop use of single-use plastic bags in his Independence Day speech in 2019. “I request citizens to see if we can make India single-use plastic free from October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti). Schools, colleges, municipalities, urban bodies, gram panchayats can collect single-use plastic bags from their areas and on October 2, we can take up the task of phasing out use of single-use plastic bags in a big way,” Modi had said. PM Modi was also conferred the “champions of the earth” award by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2018 for pledging to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022.

According to a fact sheet released by The Energy and Resources Institute and environment ministry in 2018, around 43% of manufactured plastics are used for packaging purpose and most are of single-use. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimated that each person in India consumes about 9.7 kgs of plastics annually, most of which is packaging related. India generates about 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste per annum, of which about 40% remains uncollected, according to Un-plastic Collective (UPC), a voluntary initiative launched by United Nations Environment Programme, Confederation of Indian Industry and and World Wildlife Fund India. Big cities generate at least 4,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day.

CPCB’s plastic waste guidelines issued in 2017 said they make land infertile, are ingested by cattle, leaching from landfills contaminate groundwater releasing toxic chemicals into the soil, open burning of plastic waste—a common sight in the fringes of metros and towns can release carcinogenic and hormone disrupting chemicals like dioxin.

The Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol (manufacture, usage, sale, transport, handling, and storage) Products Notification, which restricts plastic bags and cutlery as well as plastic packaging, was notified in March 2018. Most other states also have their own legislations prohibiting single-use plastic products.

The All India Plastics Manufacturers Association (AIPMA), however, underlined that the phase-out could impact at least 1 million jobs in the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises. “Let me clarify at the outset that the plastic manufacturing industry is aligned to the objective of a clean environment and a circular economy. There is visible pollution from plastics because of habits of plastic users and lack of infrastructure to handle plastic waste scientifically. A blanket ban on these single-use plastic products will have a disruptive effect on the MSME sector. Our estimates suggest at least 10 lakh [1 million] people will be impacted so the government should offer the required help to industry so that they can diversify their manufacturing,” said Deepak Ballani, director general of AIPMA.

Along with manufacturers, brand owners have also been made responsible for extended producer responsibility. “We appreciate that brand owners are in the ambit now. But raw material manufacturers, particularly polymer manufacturers, which are mainly public sector companies should have been covered also in the notification,” Ballani added.

“The amendment is a step in the right direction. single-use Plastics (SUPs) are and have become a huge concern, also there consumption was/is on the rise last year due to added measures and precautions. It is imperative to phase out SUPs but also replace such items with sustainable, economically viable alternatives with focus on awareness. It is only when we demand for non-polluting resources, such as alternatives for SUPs, that the market dynamics will change. At the same time, materials need to be accessed from end of life perspective, giving more scrutiny to items that can stay in the circular stream for long, R&D and innovation needs to be pushed as well. Just banning and phasing out will not work, it has to be complemented with a thorough plan for introduction of sustainable alternatives and focus on behaviour change,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, an independent waste management expert.

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