Environment secretary CK Mishra, on September 18, 2019, said the Environment Ministry had issued guidelines to states and union territories in the past and had been urging them to take the necessary steps to curb the use of single-use Plastic. “We issued guidelines in 2018 and January 2019. They are the same. There is a need to ensure that by 2022, we eliminate single-use plastic from society. I call upon the states to take up the issue of waste handling on top priority and help in the success of the national campaign devoted to plastic waste, in the months of September-October 2019,” Mishra said.
In guidelines issued to states and union territories earlier, the environment secretary said all government offices must completely ban all types of plastic carry bags, thermocol disposable cutlery and discourage the use of artificial banners, flags, flowers, water bottles, plastic folders, etc. The ministry had also notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules in March 2016, making it mandatory to segregate various types of waste, at source.
Single-use plastics, also referred to as disposable plastics (use and throw items), are commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once, before they are thrown away or recycled, the ministry had said. Single-use plastics include carry bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery.
Without viable alternatives, blanket ban on plastics bound to fail: Experts
With this year’s World Environment Day focusing on plastic pollution, experts have cautioned that a blanket ban on plastic may prove counterproductive
June 6, 2018: On the occasion of World Environment Day, on June 5, 2018, experts laid stress on having viable alternatives to plastics and argued that without it, a blanket ban on all consumer plastics was bound to fail. They also maintained that there was a need to beat plastic pollution, by establishing proper waste management and recycling ecosystems in the country. India was the global host for this year’s World Environment Day celebrations, the largest UN-led celebration on environment. The theme for this edition was ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.
Experts pointed out that there was a lack of waste management infrastructure, in rural or semi-urban areas. “In many villages or small towns, even if people within the household collect their waste in a bin, where do they dispose of that waste? We need better, more sustainable collection and management of such non-biodegradable waste, especially outside the big cities. Prohibiting single-use plastics, such as bags and straws, is a very welcome and much-needed step,” said Dr Gauri Pathak, Homi Bhabha Fellow and assistant professor, Aarhus University, Denmark.
She said that single-use plastics and plastics in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles or HDPE (high density polyethylene) containers, which are recyclable and free of endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as BPA (Bisphenol A), need to be differentiated.
See also: World Environment Day: How home owners can say no to plastics
“We need to have viable, relatively easy to use alternatives to plastics in place. In the absence of viable alternatives, a blanket ban on all consumer plastics is bound to fail,” she added. Former vice-chancellor of Rajasthan University, Arun Sawant, opined that even though there were viable alternatives available for plastic carry bags, plastics such as PET, which were used for food and drug packaging, were currently indispensable. He said that banning PET in such a scenario, would only create further challenges in implementation.
The experts debated whether the use of glass bottles, as an alternative to plastic bottles, would solve the problem. “Glass requires higher energy during the manufacturing process as it is made from silica/sand at temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius. The amount of water needed for washing per case of glass bottles, is approximately 20 litres, implying that close to 120 crore litres of water is used to wash 50 lakh glass bottle cases, per annum. In a state which reels under a drought-like situation almost every year, spending this huge amount of water on agriculture, would be a more logical step,” stressed professor RN Jagtap, head of the Department of Polymer and Surface Engineering, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai. In a related development, the Tamil Nadu government announced that it would ban the use of plastic items, including non-biodegradable carry bags, from January 2019, to ‘gift a plastic-free’ state to future generations.
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