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Environment ministry considers nation-wide ban on 4 single-use plastic products

The union environment ministry is considering a uniform, countrywide legislation to phase out four single-use plastic products — styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, disposable plastic cutlery and all plastic carry bags.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2018 23:22 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
plastic,ban,environment
Single-use plastic meant for packaging will not be covered by the legislation, a draft of which is ready with the ministry but is being negotiated internally on various clauses. (HT/Picture for representation)

The union environment ministry is considering a uniform, countrywide legislation to phase out four single-use plastic products — styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, disposable plastic cutlery and all plastic carry bags.

Single-use plastic meant for packaging will not be covered by the legislation, a draft of which is ready with the ministry but is being negotiated internally on various clauses. The ministry has also written to all states to come up with their own policy or guidelines for immediate phase out of these products.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was recently conferred the “champions of the earth” award by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for pledging to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022 and for leading the International Solar Alliance. The award will be handed to him by UN officials on October 3.

According to senior environment ministry officials, the plastic industry has been demanding countrywide, uniform rules and not state-specific bans. The definition of single-use plastic is still being worked on, they said, and it appears that about 50% of plastic usage is of the single-use variety.

“A central legislation is being worked on but the country has to be prepared for it. States have to be on board. Plastic bags or thin plastic bags have been either partially or fully banned in 22 states. Maharashtra has the strongest legislation. Sikkim is also implementing the ban on plastic bags well. We have seen promising results in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh as well,” said a senior environment ministry official from the hazardous substances management division who is familiar with the developments.

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.

The central legislation may be on the lines of the Maharashtra notification.

A punitive clause will be included to ensure strict compliance. The ministry is negotiating with states and institutions to begin phasing out these products in offices. “We have written to all ministries and government departments to voluntarily phase out these four items,” the official said.

Milk sachets are single-use and form a large part of the plastic waste in India but they will not be included in the phaseout due to lack of sufficient alternatives. On packaged drinking water bottles, the ministry plans to restrict usage in offices and institutions, not by individuals.

“For now, we are asking people not to use packaged water as a culture. It may not be banned altogether,” the official added. Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link, said a phaseout may not have much impact unless it also covers plastic packaging. “We need a packaging legislation.”

First Published: Sep 28, 2018 23:06 IST