Going green and caring for the planet is the latest rage, with major organisations claiming to be eco-friendly and what not. But India, as with many other trends, has jumped on the bandwagon only recently. While there have been NGOs and social communities rallying for a ban on plastic, it never gained a nation-wide scale. While Denmark had imposed a plastic bag tax way back in 1993, and even Bangladesh passed its first ban in 2002, in India, Himachal Pradesh became the first state to implement this measure only ten years ago.
Today, around 25 states and union territories have either passed complete or partial bans on the manufacture, supply and storage of polythene bags and other single-use plastic items such as cups, plates and glasses. But, to little or no avail. Lax implementation and poor waste management render the ban useless as India continues to struggle to eliminate plastic from its soil.
Reports suggest that the ban has only paid lip service and much of it exists on paper alone. Most of the country’s recycling sector is informal and therefore, unreliable.
When a ban is to be implemented, the plan to recycle existing plastic and phasing out non-recyclable ones, besides shutting down production must be chalked out. The Centre’s 2016 Plastic Waste Management Rules put the impetus on all stakeholders, but three years on, not much progress has been made. In fact, according to the latest Implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), only 14 of India’s 35 regional pollution boards filed information on plastic waste generation in 2017-18 despite multiple reminders.
“By 2022, we shall eliminate all single-use plastics from our beautiful country,” pledged then Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan on World Environment Day in 2018. However, India at the UNEA summit in Nairobi earlier this year, took a step back and committed to only “significantly reducing single-use plastic products by 2030” and working with “the private sector to find affordable and environment-friendly alternatives”. While this seems ambitious, the only way ahead is for FMCG, e-commerce and other major industries to join hands and reduce plastic consumption before it’s too late.