The Central Government of India proposed a nationwide draft notification with the intention to ban single-use items of plastic by 2022. It was published by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change on March 12, 2021, and it is said to follow phased regulation, handling as well as the prohibition of polymer-made products.
The draft is aligned with India’s announcement at the UN Environment Assembly, 2019 where the object of the ‘global phase-out of single-use plastic by 2025’ was prompted. The Indian government has planned to go ahead with the execution of the ban which will take place in three phases within structured timelines. The initiative comes as a resolution to address the issue of plastic waste in India and its staggering environmental impact on the planet as a whole.
Phases of the Plastic Ban
The first phase is to make non-woven plastic bags (made from virgin or recycled plastic) at least 60 grams per square meter (GSM) or 240 microns thick. This shall come into effect from September 30, 2021. At present, plastic bags with less than 50 microns are banned in the country. The government, in its draft, also plans to decrease the size of polythene bags made from virgin plastic to 120 microns.
The second phase will be starting from January 1, 2022, and it will see the prohibition of the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of certain single-use plastic commodities. This will include earbuds with plastic sticks, candy sticks, flags made from plastic, balloons sticks, thermocol (polystyrene) made for decoration purposes, and ice-cream sticks.
Lastly, the third phase starting from July 1, 2022, is said to ban the manufacturing, importing, stocking, distributing, sale, and utility of additional single-use plastic items which include items made with polystyrene and expanded polystyrene. This comprises single-use food contact items consisting of trays, stirrers, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, straws the wrapping or packaging films used for invitation cards, stirrer and cigarette packets, and PVC banners less than 100 microns.
Local governments, as well as gram panchayats, are expected to follow the rules for Plastic waste management and ensure all waste-related functions such as collection, transportation, segregation, processing, storage as well as waste disposal are carried out in consonance with the applicable Rules.
Plastic Waste in India
To help mitigate the issues, the Government has been formulating the groundwork for plastic waste management legislation ever since the introduction of the first plastic waste regulation in 1999. It intended to control the packaging of food products in recycled plastic and manage the severe littering problem.
The Plastics Manufacture, Sale and Usage Rules, 1999 curbed the use of plastic bags with thickness less than 20 microns and restricted vendors from using recycled plastic for storing, carrying, dispensing or packaging food items.
One of the recent regulations for the purpose, i.e. Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016, provided for a plastic ban across the country for sachets of tobacco, pan masala, and gutka. The PWM Rules, 2016 laid down a comprehensive framework for plastic waste minimization in the country and applied it to each local body, Gram Panchayat, waste generator, manufacturer, importers and producers. It focused on source segregation, collection, storage, transportation, channelization of recyclable plastic waste fraction either from households or any other source. It provided for ‘extended producer Responsibility’ to adopt the ‘polluter’s pay principle for effective and sustainable management of waste.
Plastic is one of the major contributors towards environmental pollution and the consequent climate change. Improper disposal of plastic waste generated also adds to the release of greenhouse gases in the environment. Inevitably, this increases the temperature of the planet and exacerbates the rate of climate change.
In India, the generation of plastic waste in large quantum is one of the major problems that pose high risk and a challenge to environmental well-being. It goes without saying that there is a dire need to abate polymer manufacturing and regulate its disposal as well as recycling. Concurrently, such extensive governmental measures may prove to be fruitful in eliminating plastic-driven waste and spreading awareness in relation to more sustainable, environment-friendly consumption practices in our society