Plastic Carry Bags Ban

  • Maharashtra Plastic Ban
  • National Green Tribunal called for a complete ban on “plastic carry bags” smaller than 50 microns in Delhi’s markets.
  • Maximum usage of plastic bags was to carry vegetables, fruit, meat and fish because they were convenient, easily available and cost-effective.
  • India has among the lowest per capita consumption of plastic in the world.
  • India’s per capita, per year consumption of plastic is around 11 kg per year, while the average American consumes over 100 kg.
  • In total, India is one of the largest consumers and generators of plastic in the world.
  • According to Central Pollution Control Board data, India generates nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste a day.
  • But the availability of data is poor and this volume doesn’t correlate with India’s annual plastic production, expected to cross 20 million tonnes per year by 2020.
  • The plastic industry generates over ₹1 lakh crore per year, has more than 30,000 processing units and generates 11 lakh jobs, according to a 2017 FICCI study.
Problems associated with plastic bags:
  • Serious environmental degradation
  • Harm to public health, animals in the city
  • Ability to choke up drains and sewer lines, causing floods during the rainy season.
  • Plastic was inherently not a public health hazard, but the inability to collect plastic waste leads to health hazards
Government Initiative to clean up the menace:
  • The fight against plastic goes as far back as 1999 in India, when the Centre notified rules controlling the manufacture, sale and usage of plastic.
  • In 2016, the government notified Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, which regulate manufacture, sale, distribution and use of plastic carry bags.
  • Changes introduced in 2016 were considered the most environment friendly, extending responsibility to producers and generators of plastic, and imposing responsibilities on industry, consumers and civic bodies (up to and including the village level) for segregating, managing, recycling and reducing the usage of plastic.
Disposal problem
  • Within a fortnight after the NGT ban, authorities in Delhi had seized 9,000 kg of plastic carry bags but have since struggled to find effective ways to dispose of it.
Effective disposal case study
  • Himachal Pradesh, the first state in the country to impose a ban on the use of plastic bags in 2003, effectively managed the seized plastic bags.
  • The state sought the help of rag pickers to collect the plastic bags and mixed it with other materials and then used it for road construction.
  • The confiscated bags should be returned to the manufacturers or mixed with other materials and recycled.
  • Delhi has waste-to-energy plants, it could also be sent there
Why Bans and Rules don’t work?
  • Given huge economic impact, there is bound to be pushback against any attempt to control the manufacture, sale and usage of plastic.
  • Every attempt to impose some kind of control by fiat has immediately been met with huge lobbying by those with a key stake in the plastic industry.
  • And almost invariably, the government has caved.
  • Two years after the Centre’s 2016 plastic control rules, implementation has not even started, but dilution has.
  • In amendments issued in 2018, multi-layered plastic, of the kind we find in juice cartons, which was earlier banned (except of the recyclable variety, a rare and expensive type) is now allowed provided energy can be recovered from it or it can be put to alternative use.
  • How all this is to be done is not specified.
  • Likewise, the 2016 rules which made retail establishments start charging for plastic carry bags (by making them register with the local civic body and pay ₹4,000 a month as fees) has been reworded so that the explicit charge for plastic bags (which was beginning to encourage reuse) is no longer there.
Way forward:
  • Ban driven as a government programme will head nowhere. It must be made as a ‘people’s movement’.
Case Study:
  • Best example: In 2016, Kannur district in Kerala launched a campaign with the slogan ‘Nalla Nadu, Nalla Mannu’ — good village, good soil — which culminated in a complete ban on plastic carry bags five months later
  • Just imposing a ban is not enough. We have to first give users alternatives to plastic bags, then impose the ban and only after that penalise violators with fines.
  • There has to be at least six months of aggressive campaigning before such a ban is imposed.
  • This has also been the strategy in countries like Kenya and Rwanda.
  • Banning plastic should be targeted towards behaviour change

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