India Starts Nationwide Single-Use Plastic Ban
India banned some single-use or disposable plastic products recently as part of a plan to slowly discontinue the use of the material in the South Asian nation.
For its first step in the plan, the federal government has identified 19 plastic products that are not very useful but have a high possibility of becoming waste. It is illegal to produce, import, keep, give them out, or sell them.
These products include cups, straws, and ice cream sticks made from plastic. Some disposable plastic bags will also be banned and replaced with thicker, reusable ones.
Thousands of other plastic products, like bottles for water or bags for foods like chips, are not covered by the ban. But the federal government has set targets for manufacturers to be responsible for recycling or disposing of them after their use.
Plastic manufacturers had appealed to the government to delay the ban. They said inflation and possible job losses are a concern. But India’s federal environment minister Bhupender Yadav told the media at a meeting in New Delhi that the ban had been in progress for a year.
“Now that time is up,” he said.
This is not the first time that India has considered a plastic ban. Previous bans have centered in some areas of the country with different degrees of success.
A nationwide ban that includes not just the use of plastic, but also its production and importation was a “definite boost,” said Satyarupa Shekhar. A “definite boost” means a clear improvement. Shekhar is the Asia-Pacific area adviser for the organization Break Free from Plastic.
Most plastic is not recycled around the world. The materials pollute the world’s oceans, affect wildlife, and turn up in drinking water. And scientists are still trying to understand the risks from very small pieces of plastic, known as microplastics.
The country’s waste management system cannot handle its growing cities and villages. It means that much of the waste is not recycled and ends up polluting the environment. Our World in Data found that nearly 13 million metric tons of plastic waste were either thrown out or not recycled by the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people in 2019.
Ravi Agarwal is the director of Toxic Link, a New Delhi-based group that supports waste management. Agarwal said the ban was a “good beginning,” but its success will depend on how well it is carried out. The actual enforcement of the law will be in the hands of individual states and cities.
Government officials said they banned products that could be replaced by other materials, such as bamboo spoons, plantain trays, and wooden ice-cream sticks. But in the days leading up to the ban, many food sellers said they did not fully understand.
Moti Rahman sells vegetables in New Delhi. He said customers would carefully pick out fresh summer produce before he put them in a plastic bag.
Rahman said that he agrees with the ban. But he added that if plastic bags are banned without a cost-effective replacement, his business will be affected.
Rahman said, “After all, plastic is used in everything.”