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    New Delhi: India delivers on commitment to ban identified single-use plastics

    New Delhi: In today’s time, one of the foremost challenges faced by humanity is plastic pollution, which, if not dealt with, can jeopardize the actions toward a sustainable future. The major brunt of plastic pollution is borne by the environment thereby, threatening the sustenance of natural ecosystems, both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and, affecting human health. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) Annual Report (2019-20) on Implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, in India, the per capita plastic waste generation has almost doubled over the last five years. 

    The Government of India notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, in place of the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011. The new addition of Plastic Waste Management Rules focussed on reinforcing and restoring the Waste Management Rules and also played a crucial role in fulfilling the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of the Swachh Bharat Mission. Considering the urgent need to curb the menace of plastic use, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, made an impassioned call in his address to the nation on 15th August 2019 to eliminate the use of single-use plastic.

    The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules 2021 on 12th August 2021. In accordance with the amendment, India will ban the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items across the country from 1st July 2022.

    Single-use plastic comprises plastic items used once and discarded. It includes- shampoo, detergents and oil sachets, bottles, plastic cutleries, dustbin bags, and food packs, to name a few. The single-use plastic items that face Government’s ban include earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice- cream sticks, polystyrene (Thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, and plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers. Previously, a ban on polythene bags under 75 microns was already imposed in September 2021 by the Ministry. The Government has decided to expand the limit to 120 microns. Therefore, a ban on polythene bags under 120 microns will be imposed starting 31st December 2022.

    Some other crucial steps undertaken by the Government in mitigating single-use plastic items include guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) on plastic packaging. The guidelines aim to promote and establish sustainable plastic packaging by reinforcing the circular economy of plastic packaging waste and encouraging and enabling innovative and novel ideas, technologies, and alternatives to plastic packaging. For effective implementation and regulation of the enforcement of the single-use plastic ban from 1st July 2022, the Government of India will establish national and state-level control rooms and special enforcement teams to check the illegal manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, and sale and use of banned single-use plastic items. Stringent steps will be taken, especially at the borders and inter-state checkpoints, to oversee any transportation of prohibited single-use plastic items.Various capacity-building workshops will be organized primarily for the micro, small and medium enterprises for technical assistance and training in manufacturing new alternatives to banned single-use plastic. 

    Recently, the Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, and Labour & Employment, Bhupendra Yadav, also launched a Central Pollution Control Board Grievance Redressal App for inculcating a sense of belongingness and eliciting participation from the citizens in alleviating the use of single-use plastic. Engaging steps such as introducing the awareness mascot- PRAKRITI, were also launched on 5th April 2022 for increased awareness, outreach, and information dissemination among the masses. Along with above mentioned rigorous steps, the Government of India is actively promoting and encouraging the development of innovative technologies, ideas, and alternatives to plastic with enhanced quality, affordability, feasibility, and availability across the nation.

    Along with concrete global actions towards eliminating single-use plastic, it is imperative to ensure multi-stakeholder participation (national, state, regional, and local levels), inter-departmental and cross-sectoral coordination, cooperation among governments (central, state, local), regulatory bodies, national and international partners/ industries/ private and public organizations/ academic and research and development institutions for the betterment of the planet earth and securing a sustainable future for living beings.

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