How can India’s decision to ban single-use plastic be made effective?3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
This comes as a happy news for the environment, and all those who dwell in it!
Now, look around you and identify the plastic you see around you. How many of these things can be used only once? Maybe a plastic straw? Or a packet of chips? This is what constitutes single-use plastics. These items are thrown away after single-use and they are everywhere, mostly in packaging material. So, how can the ban be made effective?
By offering alternatives, enforcing regulations for their use, and implementing better waste management systems.
But, why is plastic so famous?
It is cheap, lightweight, and easy to produce. This has led to a production boom for the material. But now, the world is struggling to deal with the plastic waste generated. Plastic takes up to 1,000 years to decompose. Even the burning of plastic in landfills releases toxic gases that harm the environment.
About 60% of plastic waste is collected in India. The remaining 40% amounting to 10,376 tons remains uncollected. In India, mostly independent waste-pickers collect waste from homes and elsewhere, and sell them at recycling centres for a minimal price. But not all plastic can be collected this way. Plastic that is of low economic value is not collected, and becomes a source of water and air pollution.
Countries all over the world are working to control plastic-waste and here, alternatives to plastic are important. You will notice how restaurants and other businesses have started using biodegradable cutlery and packages. While these are responsible choices made by individual businesses, there are no regulatory guidelines for the use of alternative plastic yet.
So the new ban needs to ensure that regulations for the use of alternatives, and recycling practices are also in place.
Even though 60% of India’s plastic is recycled, most of it is downcycled. Downcycling is a process by which high-quality plastic is reduced to low-quality plastic, like when plastic bottles are turned into polyester (used for clothes). Normally, plastic can be recycled seven to eight times before needing decomposition. But downcycled plastic has to be disposed off after one or two uses.
Alongside alternatives, even disposal needs method. If general waste and alternative plastic are disposed off together, it defeats the purpose of using alternatives in the first place. Waste management laws are in place but are not followed very seriously.
Environmentalists also recommend investment in research and development on alternatives. India remains a big consumer of plastic enabling alternatives to be produced and sold in bulk.
And while we are talking about investment in alternatives, how about reviewing attempts for using plastic alternatively. Owliver has brought to you many stories of young entrepreneurial ventures that have found a way to replace plastic or use it differently. How many of those do you remember? Find out through this puzzle:
This step is a massive one towards meeting India’s green goals. In March, India also declared that it was on its way to meeting its Paris agreement targets.