Plastic Pollution- No Single Pill is Available - Daily Current Affair Article

Why in news?

Recently union ministry of environment , forest and climate change announced ban on single use plastic which will come into force from July 2022.

The plastic waste management amendment rules 2021 announced in august that 20 identified SUPs will be phased out by next year.

Major provisions of the Plastic Waste Management rules 2016-

  • The main target under the plastic waste management rules 2016 was reduction of 6000 tonnes of uncollected plastic waste generated daily by various manufacturing industries with the use of concept of Extended producer’s Responsibility act.
  • It focussed on the responsibilities of producers and generators , both in plastic waste management system and to introduce collect back provision of plastic waste by producers, as per extended producer’s responsibility.
  • It increased the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to. 50 microns , and expanded the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal areas to rural areas.
  • It also suggested for the use of plastic waste for road construction and placed more responsibility on waste generators by making them pay a user charge
  • A plastic waste management fee has to be collected during pre-registration of the producers.

A next revamp—The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules,2021:

Some salient features-

  • The rules put prohibition on identified single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
  • There will be a prohibition on manufacture , import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of SUPs , including polystyrene with effect from 1sr July, 2022.
  • The thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from 50 microns to 75 microns and to 120 microns with effect from 31st December,2022.
  • The provision of Extended producer’s Responsibility is present under which plastic packaging waste has to be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way.
  • Extended producer’s Responsibility under the new rules of 2022 have been given legal force for its effective implementation.
  • A special task force has to be constituted under States/It’s for elimination of SUPs.

Report on Single use plastics: phasing out of few plastic products recommended-

  • An expert committee constituted by the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals has categorized plastic products based on their environmental impact and utility to be phased out as they have lowest utility and High littering potential. These are:
  • Thin carry bags ( less than 50 microns)
  • Non woven carry bags covers ( less than 80 gsm and 320 microns)
  • Small wrapping/ packaging/ straws/ stirrers plastic.
  • Cutler such as foam cups, bowls
  • Earbuds with plastic sticks
  • Small plastic bottles
  • Plastic banners

Environmental recovery and conservation due to ban on SUPs:

  • The plastic carry bags are the biggest contributors for waste every year. Millions of plastic bags ends up in the soil, water bodies and pollute them.
  • It takes and average of one thousand years to decompose completely for these plastics.
  • After ban on SUPs , there will no new addition of plastic waste in soil, water bodies giving relief to our ecosystem from net getting more polluted and damaged by SUPs.
  • Marine wildlife also gets effected severely as whales, fishes, turtles eat Plastic leading to bio – accumulation and bio – magnification. Banning of SUPs will protect these aquatic animals from getting severely affected by SUPs
  • Plastic, which is a petroleum product contributes to global warming so, ban on it will eventually reduce release of CO2.
  • The transfer of contaminants between Marie species and human through consumption effects food chain , from this step of banning of SUPs , our ecosystem will be able to recover gradually.

Key loopholes in The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules 2021-

  • The products recommended for ban are being manufactured by small and medium manufacturers, hence, there is also no say on large corporations that mass- produced everything from furniture and bags to multi-layered packaging and bottles.
  • Minderoo Foundations plastic waste makers index reveals companies that produce 90% of all SPU waste globally- Reliance industries, GAIL India Ltd.
  • Packaging and EPR woes- packaging products like food wrappers, wrapping films have been included in the phase out list but packaging waste has not been listed for phase out. Report also focus on EPR concept related to littering plastic only and it hasn’t even begun to be implemented.
  • The infamous bio-plastics and other compostable , oxo-degradable , oxo-biodegradable plastics used for grocery bags are not at all fully biodegradable and not all green.
  • These require a separate composting facilities which create a certain impact on environmental conditions again.
  • According to FICCI, the plastic waste recycling industry in India employs 1.6 million people which are extremely small players, lack scientific know how on waste collection , segregation and disposal.

Sustainable alternatives of Single use plastics:

  • Recently, IISc researchers find a way to substitute for single use plastics, by combining non – edible oils and cellulose extracted from agricultural stubble, the researchers made bio-degradable multi-use polymer sheets.
  • Jute bags, coconut husks made into fibers can be used for making grocery bags.
  • Cellulose based plastics can be used which bare bio- degradable.
  • Starch based blends and bio phenol bio-plastics can also be used in place of SUP.
  • Ecoware made of bagasse – a by product of sugarcane processing can be used to make cutlery in place of plastic plates.
  • A more natural way of using packaging is making use of palm leaves near marina, beaches, sea-shore for instant packaging.

Various global measures to deal with plastic pollution and their shortcomings-

  • On world environment day 2018, the theme was “Beat Plastic Pollution”.
  • The G 20 environment ministers agreed to adopt a new comprehensive framework for Marine plastic waste reduction.
  • Un-plastic- Collective is a voluntary initiative launched by UN environment program India ,CII and WWF India for minimizing externalities of plastics on ecological and social health.
  • With an absence of any binding treaty on eliminating plastic pollution , a support is growing for a UN plastic treaty .
  • The majority of G7 nations are also supportive of cleaning up of oceans from plastic pollution.

Way Forward-

It is not the plastic that does more harm, it is us that does severe harm to our environment by using plastics at a speedy rate without even recycling or reusing. Technical knowledge will do effective management and composting of plastic waste. Citizens have go bring behavioral change and contribute by not littering the places, strict regulations needed to be implemented. Segregation , decomposition must be the initial steps for plastic waste reduction.

General Studies Paper 3
  • Environment and Ecology