The Central govt. on Friday notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, that prohibits the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of several single-use plastic items from July 1, 2022.
The novel amendment is in line with PM Narendra Modi’s clarion call to phase out single-use plastic by 2022. It was in June 2018 that PM Narendra Modi had announced to eliminate all single-use plastic items from the country by 2022.
Why is banning Single-use plastics the need of the hour?
The pollution caused due to single-use plastic items has become an imperative & pertinent environmental threat confronting countries, worldwide today.
India is committed to taking action towards mitigating pollution caused by littered Single-Use Plastics. In the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India had piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic products pollution, recognizing the urgent need for the global community to focus on this very important issue. The adoption of this resolution at UNEA 4 was thus a very significant step.
Adverse effects on the environment:
The effects of single-use plastic on the environment, wildlife, and ecosystems are devastating.
Single-use plastics typically used once require hundreds of years to break down. Mostly dumped in landfills, these plastics slowly degrade to become microplastics, that continue to pollute the environment. The remaining plastic waste is often burned to create energy, causing toxic emissions that enter the environment as litter.
Plastics: Code-red for animals:
Every year, innumerable animals are killed due to plastic. From Seabirds to fishes, turtles and other marine mammals are found to have fishing gear or plastic bags in their stomachs. More than 100 aquatic species have been found to have microplastics in them, which can pierce organs or block the digestive tract, thus, causing death.
60 to 80 percent of the marine litter currently comprises plastic which ultimately means that many sea creatures are, at one point or another, swallowing this seawater soup instilled with toxic chemicals from plastic decomposition.
Single-use plastic items to be banned in specified period:
To avert the adverse effects of littered plastic on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which prohibits identified single-use plastic items having low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
Under its new provisions, the manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of the following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July 2022.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, single-use plastic items such as earbuds, balloons, ice-creams, and candies with plastic sticks, plastic flags, and thermocol used in decoration will be banned from the specified period.
Further, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners of less than 100 microns, stirrers, etc will also be prohibited.
Steps taken to prevent littering of single-use plastics:
In order to stop littering caused due to lightweight 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 the reuse of plastics due to an increase in their thickness.
The plastic packaging waste, which is not covered under the phase-out of identified single-use plastic items, shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility of the Producer, importer, and Brand owner (PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. For effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility, the Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
Further, the waste management infrastructure in the States/UTs is being strengthened through the Swachh Bharat Mission.
Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016:
The following steps have been taken to strengthen the implementation of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016:
– States/UTs are requested to constitute a Special Task Force for the elimination of single-use plastics and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
– A National Level Taskforce has also been constituted by the Ministry for taking coordinated efforts to eliminate identified single-use plastic items and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
– The State /UT Governments and concerned Central Ministries/Departments have also been requested to develop a comprehensive action plan for the elimination of single-use plastics and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, and its implementation in a time-bound manner.
– Directions under Section-5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, have been issued to all States/Union Territories inter alia for setting up for institutional mechanism for strengthening enforcement of Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016.
– The Government has also been taking measures for awareness generation towards the elimination of single-use plastics and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
– A two-month-long Awareness Campaign of Single-Use Plastic 2021 has been organized. The Ministry has also organized a pan India essay writing competition on the theme of spreading awareness amongst school students in the country.
– To encourage innovation in the development of alternatives to identified single-use plastic items and digital solutions to plastic waste management, the India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021, has been organized for students of Higher Educational Institutions and startups recognized under Startup India Initiative.