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Explained: Why single-use plastics need to be banned? All you need to know

Petroleum-based disposable plastics become difficult to be recycled whereas several virgin materials and chemicals need to be added to them to be recycled.

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Single-use plastic
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New Delhi: The Centre has announced to impose a ban on single-use plastic from July 1. A gazette notification was issued by the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change last year announcing the ban and has listed down the items that will be banned from next month.

“The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022,’’ stated the Ministry notification.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the other hand has announced a Comprehensive Action Plan that focuses on tightening India’s commitment to ban single-use plastic items.

Single-use plastic

What is single-use plastic

As the name suggests single-use plastic or disposable plastics are used once before being thrown away. Many a time, these plastics are not properly disposed of and cannot be recycled as well. In India, around 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year, most of which cannot be recycled.

Globally, only 10-13% of plastics are recycled. Petroleum-based disposable plastics become difficult to be recycled whereas several virgin materials and chemicals need to be added to them to be recycled. Moreover, there are a few items where recycled plastic can be used.

Single-use plastic items include plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda, and water bottles, and most food packaging. Plastic bags with a thickness of less than 10 microns will be banned in India from December 31, 2022. Besides, it has been projected that single-use plastic could contribute to 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

India stands among the top 100 countries for single-use plastic waste generation. As most single-use plastic cannot be recycled, it is likely for us to stop using plastic in that case and shift towards environmentally sustainable products and services and invent technology that recycles plastic more efficiently. 

Why single-use plastic needs to be banned

Plastic waste poses a threat to the ecology. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature data, the world produces over 300 million plastic wastes every year and 14 million tonnes of them end up in the ocean. With time, plastics break down into highly toxic micro-plastics.

Plastic waste can be considered the biggest cause of pollution in the country. As per the data by Centre, in 2019-20 over 34 lakh tonnes of plastic waste was generated whereas in 2018-19, 30.59 lakh tonnes.

Plastics do not get decomposed and they remain in the same landfills where they have been buried for millennia to come. Besides, plastics cannot be buried as it releases toxic fumes and harmful gases during the process.

So apart from recycling, storage of materials remains to be the only viable option. The leaching of plastic waste into the ground as well as water sources and more has been linked to the presence of dangerous microplastics. Thus, with a ban on these plastics, India can hope to reduce its plastic waste generation figures.

Single-use plastic

What changes are to come in from July 1

From July 1, plastic sticks will be pushed out of the market. These include earbuds with plastic sticks, candy sticks, ice cream sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, and thermocol (polystyrene) for decoration. Moreover, the use of cutlery items will change.

Also, there will be no cigarette packs, plastic plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays, or even stirrers for your coffee and tea, to consume your food and beverage.

Packing and wrapping plastic films such as cling films that are used to cover sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets will be made unavailable at the market. Plastic or PVC banners that are less than 100 microns will no longer be allowed.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that there is also a complete ban sachets using plastic material for storing, packing, or selling gutkha, tobacco, and pan masala.

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