Single-Use Plastics

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    Recently, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change launched an awareness campaign on Single-Use Plastics.

    Major Points 

    • UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) along with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change are organizing the two-month-long awareness campaign which will comprise of four online regional events and a social media campaign to spread the message of mitigation plastic pollution to a wider audience. 
    • The regional events will include interactive sessions on various themes related to single-use plastics and plastic waste management and cover a wide range of stakeholders from local bodies, pollution control boards, industry, civil society organizations and citizens.
    • The awareness generation on plastic waste management and reduction in the use of single-use plastic items is vital in bringing about behavioural change

    Single-Use Plastics

    • Single-use plastics are disposable plastics meant for use-and-throw. These comprise polythene bags, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic sachets, plastic wrappers, straws, stirrers and Styrofoam cups or plates.
    • Single-use plastics have been defined under the rules as “a plastic commodity intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled”.

    Issues /Challenges 

    • According to the Un-Plastic Collective Report, an estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, about 60% of which has ended up either in a landfill or the natural environment.
      • India alone generates 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, around 43% of which comprises single-use plastic. It poses a mammoth problem for India since 40% of plastic waste remains uncollected.
    • It is harmful to the environment as it is non-biodegradable and takes years to disintegrate.
    • It slowly and gradually breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic known as microplastics
    • It can take thousands of years for plastic bags to decompose, thus contaminating our soil and water in the process. 
    • The noxious chemicals used to produce plastic get transmitted to animal tissue, and finally, enter the human food chain.
      • Fish consume thousands of tons of plastic in a year, ultimately transferring it up the food chain to marine mammals.
    • A person could be consuming 5 grams of plastic a week. Plastic kills an estimated 1 million seabirds every year and affects around 700 species that get infected by ingesting plastics.

    India’s Efforts In Tackling Plastic Waste

    • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 clearly stipulate that urban local bodies (ULBs) should ban less than 50 micron thick plastic bags and not allow usage of recycled plastics for packing food, beverage or any other eatables.
      • Recently, the Ministry has issued a draft notification for amending the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, with respect to prohibiting identified 12 single-use plastic items such as disposable plastic cutlery etc.
      • The draft Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021 is proposed to be implemented in three stages starting this year and culminating in mid-2022.
      • The rules propose that each sheet of non-woven plastic carry bag shall not be less than 60 (GSM per square metre) or 240 microns in thickness. 
      • A carry bag made of virgin or recycled plastic shall not be less than 120 microns, with effect from the same date.
      • The Rules also require that local bodies should provide separate collection, storage and processing of plastic waste in their areas.
    • The government has set an ambitious target of eliminating single-use plastics by 2022.
    • India is a signatory to MARPOL (International Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution).
    • The “India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021 
      • It is a unique competition calling upon start-ups /entrepreneurs and students of   Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to develop innovative solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and develop alternatives to single-use plastics.

    Suggestions

    • Recycling and reuse of plastic materials are the most effective actions available to reduce the environmental impacts of open landfills and open-air burning that are often practised to manage domestic waste.
    • Sufficient litter and recycling bins can be placed in cities, and on beaches in coastal areas to accelerate the prevention and reduction of plastic pollution.
    • Governments, research institutions and industries also need to work collaboratively redesigning products, and rethink their usage and disposal, in order to reduce microplastics waste from pellets, synthetic textiles and tyres.
    • Existing international legally binding instruments should be further explored to address plastic pollution.
    • Reiterating the government’s commitment to phase out identified single-use plastic items that have low utility and high adverse environmental impact, 
    • There is a need for a National Action Plan or guidelines that should focus on implementing the plastic ban in a phase-wise manner in terms of urgency. 
      • This means products that have alternatives available should be phased out earlier than those that don’t have alternatives, simultaneously reinforcing R&D funding for different alternatives and eco-friendly products.
    • The phase-wise banning should be developed based on materials, recyclability, availability of alternatives and livelihood security to the informal sector. 
    UN Environment Programme

    • It is the leading global environmental authority established in 1972.
    • It sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system.
    • Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
    • Major Reports: Emission Gap Report, Global Environment Outlook, Frontiers, Invest into Healthy Planet.
    • Major Campaigns: Beat Pollution, UN75, World Environment Day, Wild for Life.

    Source:PIB