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Coherent Regulations Need of the Hour on Single-Use Plastic Ban

With recent announcements on discontinuing of 'single-use' plastic, industry association looks for a clear definition and appropriate policy changes

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Before the government decides to ban any single-use plastic products, it needs to take a number of concrete steps including coming out with a technical definition of what a single-use plastic is; concrete policy steps on issues of waste management; one-policy across centre and states on single-use plastic ban among others says stakeholders, industry associations and companies involved in the production of plastics in India. 

The need to get rid of single-use plastic gained momentum earlier in the year when in his Independence Day speech, PM Modi called on to move away from single-use plastics. “Can we free India from single-use plastic? The time for implementing such an idea has come. Let a significant step be made on October 2.” Then again in September, addressing the UN meet on combatting desertification the Prime Minister said "my government has announced that India will put an end to the single-use plastic in the coming years. I believe the time has come for even the world to say goodbye to single-use plastic”.

What is Single-Use Plastic? A recent UN report defines Single-Use plastics or disposable plastics as commonly used plastic for packaging It includes items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery.

Recent news reports talk of discontinuation of eight ‘single-use’ plastic items by the central government, an industry expert said that the demand for plastic “The definition of single-use plastic should be based on its thickness,” he says. "We should wait to see what the government intends to do," he adds. 

Hiten Bheda, Chairman, Environment and Recycling Committee of the All India Plastics Manufacturing Association (AIPMA) says there is a dire urgency to have a clear policy on single-use plastic.

“While recycling is the solution, littering and waste management should not be overlooked through substantial policy changes,” he adds.

Vipul Shah, CEO, Petrochemicals, Reliance India brings to the fore the disparity in the approach of the central government when compared to the various state governments. "While the approach at the Centre has been very systematic. The approach at the state level has been ad-hoc. To ensure ease of doing business in the state on this issue, centre and states should have one regulation," says Shah. 

Status Update

So far 15 states and 4 Union Territories have introduced notifications completely banning plastic carry bags and/or single-use plastic items such as food packaging, cutlery, etc. And why have they done that? Because of a five-page long guidelines document brought out by the Central Government that carefully leaves it to States and UTs to decide on the future course of action.

While that happens, back in Delhi the policy guidelines on the management of plastics waste are still evolving both in terms of single-use plastics and extended producer responsibility, experts point out. 

Apart from tackling the plastic, the management of municipal solid waste is yet another major challenge shouting for investments. On the front educating the masses and in order to bring about social and behavioural issues, the requirement a massive pan-India communication campaign is a need of the hour. “It is important to involve the stakeholders to make compliance and implementation better,” says the industry experts quoted before. 

Menace of Plastic  

In 2015, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told the Rajya Sabha that the total plastic waste, collected and recycled, was estimated to be 9,205 tonnes per day; 6,137 tonnes remained uncollected. Study shows that the single-use plastics that we use for a few hours takes at least 1,000 years to decompose.

A report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB states that plastic contributes to 8 per cent of the total solid waste collected in the country. In India, water and soft drink bottles form the bulk of the household solid waste. One study shows that around 43 per cent of manufactured plastics are used for packaging purpose in India and most are single-use.

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