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Single use plastics

Context: The government has launched massive campaigns against single-use, or disposable, plastic products, as part of the year-long celebrations to mark 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

What are Single-use plastics?

  • They are disposable plastics meant for use-and-throw.
  • These comprise polythene bags, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic sachets, plastic wrappers, straws, stirrers and Styrofoam cups or plates.

Are these measures sufficient?

  1. Banning its usage while is a welcome move to save the environment, it is only one side of the story.
  2. Along with any move to impose a ban, there should also be equal emphasis on recycling and waste management.
  3. There is a need for a very comprehensive waste collection, segregation and waste management eco-system to be in place, which could take multi- billion dollar investment.
  4. While there is increased awareness in urban areas, the challenge will be to find a suitable cost effective alternatives in tier II and tier III towns and remote locations.

Why these measures are necessary?

  • 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day in the country, with 40 per cent plastic waste being uncollected and 60 million tonnes of solid waste generated in one year.
  • According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), plastic is harmful to the environment as it is non-biodegradable, takes years to disintegrate.
  1. Single-use plastics slowly and gradually break down into smaller pieces of plastic known as microplastics.
  2. It can take thousands of years for plastic bags to decompose, thus contaminating our soil and water in the process.
  3. The noxious chemicals used to produce plastic gets transmitted to animal tissue, and finally, enter the human food chain.

Government measures in place:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme was introduced in the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2011, and was largely redefined in PWM 2016, wherein producers, importers and brand owners were asked to take primary responsibility for collection of used multi-layered plastic sachets or pouches or packaging.

Challenges ahead for India:

  • The government has not put in place a clear roadmap with timelines to meet the 2022 deadline for eliminating single-use plastics.
  • The guidelines do not specify that states and union territories must phase-out single-use plastics by 2022.
    Without a clear roadmap, that target date of 2022 is now more aspirational in nature.

Current Affairs 2020

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