From 1st July, certain single-use plastic (SUP) items will be completely banned from all forms of production, distribution, stocking and sale: PAN India. Any violation will invite punitive action: a fine (of ₹1 lakh) or a jail term (up to 5 years) or both- as per Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act
Banned Single Use Plastic Items
Earbuds, plastic sticks for flags, balloons, candy, ice cream, as well as “thermocol” plates, glasses, cups, spoons, forks, knives, trays, and straws. Packaging film used to wrap invitation cards, sweets, cigarettes, and plastic or PVC banners under 100 microns, and stirrers (used in labs).
While this may seem like a massive overhaul already, it really isn’t; for these are but 15-16 products, there are thousands more. Still, we had to begin somewhere, somehow, and with some collective will, we have.
However, this change is huge, and unquestionably unfair on small businesses, vendors and manufacturers who just do not have the tools nor the means, nor any support from their governments, they are just passively waiting for the days to pan out. Paper straws cost five times as much as plastic straws, and that is a huge dent on any humble enterprise
Plastic packaing New Demand
Alternates to SUPs are certainly more expensive for now, and there aren’t many to begin with either. As customers, we will need to bear the brunt of yet another price rise, and take it on the chin. Or, we can simply spread the word: carry your own shopping bags made of firmer, friendlier stuff. Make sure the word is heard loud and clear, tell your friends, family, everyone, and anyone: carry your own bags.
Workplace Measures post single use plastic ban
For work spaces and fellow employees you can gift long lasting shopping bags made of cloth or jute or even try and grab some double enforced paperbags that don’t break easily. And remember not to just hand them over without explaining the reasons behind your unforeseen generosity. And of course, phase out all forms of single use plastic from your daily operations.
According to the CPCB, India generates about 2.4 lakh tonnes of single use plastic per annum, with per capita SUP production at 0.18 kg per year, but the Centre for Science and Environment CSE believes these figure are underreported. While the centre claims 60% of all plastic waste is recycled, surveys launched by the centre itself found the figure was 12% in 2019.
An Alternative to Alternatives?
The major critique of the SUP ban is the lack of viable and affordable alternative. According to guidelines cotton bags and UTE bags, or paper bags, or straws, cups, and cutlery made from bamboo or clay cups and biodegradable glass are all supposed to be used, but supply is nowhere near requirement. This current gap between demand and supply will be met through sustainable solutions surely, which will But for now, we can do what we do best in India: improvise and do the best we can, till things improve.