As per Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021, single-use plastic item “is a plastic commodity intended to be used once for the same purpose before being dispose of or recycled”. Among the most often used plastics are plastic carry bags, plastic food packaging, plastic bottles, straws, containers, cups, and cutlery. On one hand, their price, durability, and hygiene makes them prevalent, and on the other hand, recycling single-use plastics is very challenging. In India, 35 states/UTs estimated 3.4 million metric tonnes of plastic waste generation in 2019-20, which is somewhat more than the plastic waste generated in 2018-19.
The majority of single-use plastic items have little to no recyclable value, and they end up in landfills or clogging sewers before entering rivers. If burnt, they pollute the air and can degrade into millions of small fragments known as microplastics, which can contaminate soil and water. The problem is that the rate at which these single-use plastic items are used and then discarded is faster than the rate at which they are recycled or managed. This imbalance, combined with the particular character of single-use plastics, has prompted authorities to enforce some stringent restrictions.
The policy makers have now decided to impose a ban on identified single-use plastic items as defined in PWM (Amendment) Rules, 2021, from July 2022. The idea is to mitigate its catastrophic effects on living beings as well as on the ecosystem. If implemented successfully, this can have several positive impacts on ecosystem including human and animal’s health. This can also lower the level of soil, water, or land pollution caused by single use plastic waste.
What does the policy says?
The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021 prohibits identiﬁed single use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential, by 2022. It notiﬁes that the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022
- ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic ﬂags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene [Thermocol] for decoration
- plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packaging ﬁlms around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
In order to stop littering due to light weight plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September, 2021, the thickness of plastic carry 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 reuse of plastic carry bags due to increase in thickness.
Alternatives to single-use plastic are increasing with elevating awareness about the ill effects of single-use plastic waste. The guidelines released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on management of single use plastic reiterate the promotion of eco-friendly alternatives in order to phase out the single use plastic progressively . In our upcoming blog we will be discussing about the possible alternatives of single use plastic. Stay tuned!