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Explained: Why Single-use plastic is being banned in India from July 1?

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New Delhi, Jun 22: Come July 1, the single-use plastic items will be completely banned in the country. The Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change had issued a gazette notification last year announcing the ban, in line with the clarion call given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to phase out single use plastic by 2022.

Explained: Why Single-use plastic is being banned in India from July 1?

What are Single-Use Plastics?

Single-use plastics, also known as disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These items are things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging.

Pollution due to single-use plastic items has become an important environmental challenge confronting all countries as the plastic items don't biodegrade as they just break down into micro-particles which contaminate our environment. In the process of breaking down, it releases toxic chemicals, thereby making their way into our food and water supply.

These toxic chemicals are now being found in our bloodstream and the latest research has found them to disrupt the Endocrine system which can cause cancer, infertility, birth defects, impaired immunity and many other ailments.

An important point that we have to note here is that researchers say that only 9 per cent of all the plastics produced has been recycled since 1950.

In a bid to curb it, in the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India 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 a significant step.

Items Being Banned

Ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice- cream sticks, polystyrene [Thermocol] for decoration. plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 microns, and stirrers will be banned.

How is it being Enforced?

CPCB has undertaken comprehensive measures to give effect to India's commitment to ban identified single-use plastic items. "To curb the supply of identified items, directions have been issued at national, state and local levels. For example, all leading petrochemical industries to not supply plastic raw materials to the industries engaged in banned SUP production.

Additionally, directions have been issued to SPCB/PCCs to modify/revoke consent to operate issued under Air/Water Act to industries engaged in banned SUP production. Customs Authority have been asked to stop the import of banned SUP items. To complete the loop, local authorities have been being directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items shall not be sold on their premises and the existing commercial licenses shall be cancelled, if entities are found to be selling banned SUP items,"

As an alternative to the existing supply, enabling measures for promoting alternative to SUP are being actively pursued. CPCB has already issued one-time certificates to around 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic. These certificates do not require renewal which is in line with ease-of doing business policy of the Government, a statement from the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change said.

Further, an online portal has been developed to facilitate the certification of these manufacturers. To support the MSMEs, CPCB in association with CIPET is organizing Workshops for MSMEs across the country to transition to alternatives to SUP. Three such workshops have been held at Ranchi, Guwahati & Madurai. Development of alternatives to petro-based plastics is also being pursued in collaboration with leading technical institutions like IISc and CIPET. On the demand side, directions have been issued to E-commerce companies, leading single-use plastic sellers/users, and plastic raw material manufacturers with respect to phasing out of identified single-use plastic items, the statement further states.

To encourage citizens to partake in the efforts, SPCB's and local bodies are organizing large-scale awareness drives with the participation of all citizens - students, voluntary organisations, self-help groups, local NGOs/CSOs, RWAs, market associations, corporate entities, etc.

Previously, CPCB conducted surprise inspections of Gutkha / Pan Masala manufacturing industries across the country to check the usage of plastic in packaging of their product. To create an enabling support system, CPCB is handholding the State Boards to operationalise the advisories issued by conducting meetings so that all the Urban local bodies in the respective states are able to effectively implement the guidelines with their help. Regional Workshops with SPCBs/PCCs in addition to a Central Workshop with Chairpersons of all SPCBs/PCCs is being organised in June 2022.

Counties that Have Banned Single-Use Plastics

However, countries like Canada, Kenya, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, United States, China and the European Union have banned prohibited visitors from taking single-use plastics such as water bottles and disposable plates into national parks, forests, beaches, and conservation areas.

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