India continues to struggle with one of the worst plastic pollution problems in the world, but a new measure could lead to a cleaner future for the country. The Indian government will implement a ban on some single-use plastics to help curb plastic waste across the country, officials told Reuters last week.
The ban, which will go into effect on Oct. 2, will apply to six single-use plastic items — plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws, and some sachets (small packets) – often used to package food and snacks.
“The ban will be comprehensive and will cover manufacturing, usage, and import of such items,” one official, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
The government will allow a six-month adjustment period before enforcing penalties for those found violating the new law, officials said.
Some states have already implemented bans on plastic bags to help address the country’s plastic pollution problem, but the upcoming nationwide ban is part of a larger campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rid India of all single-use plastics by 2022.
“The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices,” Modi said in June 2018. “Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.”
Officials estimated that ban on just six types of single-use plastic products will reduce the 14 million tons of plastics consumed by India every year by 5% to 10%.
The wide availability of affordable smartphones and the internet has led to a hike of online orders from companies like Amazon and Walmart, which often delivered orders in plastic packaging, contributing to 40% of the countries plastic consumption. However, the government plans to eventually eradicate the problem by asking e-commerce companies to reduce their use of plastic packaging, officials revealed. The government will also pursue stricter environmental standards and will mandate that only recyclable plastic be used in manufacturing.
However, the problem also needs to be addressed from a waste management perspective as well. The country still lacks an effective management system for plastic waste, fostering a nationwide littering epidemic.
In the past, the large South Asian country has also taken on the plastic-related issue of marine litter, which affects the health of the world’s oceans and threatens life below water. The government developed a national marine litter campaign and a program to monitor the plastic in the country’s waters, and has committed to ridding 100 national monuments of litter.
The country’s prime minister continues to remind the Indian public that their actions have a weighty impact, not just on their own lives, but particularly on those who are already severely disadvantaged.
“Environmental degradation hurts the poor and vulnerable the most,” Modi said last year.
“It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that material prosperity does not compromise our environment.”