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Will Coronavirus Lockdown Delay India’s Commitment To Phase Out Single-use Plastic By 2022?

While humans are staying indoors due to coronavirus induced lockdown, nature is thriving, healing and highlighting the damage being done to the environment, one of them being plastic pollution

Will Coronavirus Lockdown Delay India’s Commitment To Phase Out Single-use Plastic By 2022?

New Delhi: Though the coronavirus induced lockdown has impacted everyone’s lives and brought it to a standstill, there’s a flip side to it as well – cleaner air and water bodies. With the nature thriving and healing while humans are staying indoors to check the spread of the COVID-19, the damage being done to the environment is clear more than ever. One of the most visible damages done to the environment in the last few years is plastic pollution. According to a 2019 study by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generates 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste per day.

India has committed to phase out the use of single-use plastic by 2022 but in the time of coronavirus pandemic, the use of plastic products in the form of gloves, face shields, packaging and others has increased. Also, given the impact of coronavirus lockdown on the economy, it looks like there is a new challenge at hand. In between all this, how should India address its plastic waste problem? NDTV speaks to experts to understand the problem of plastic and how to solve it.

Also Read: Delhi Gets Its First Garbage Café Where Plastic Waste Can Be Exchanged For Meals

Solving The Problem Of Plastic Waste

In 2015, 35-year-old young lawyer from Mumbai along with his 84-year-old neighbour late Harbansh Mathur, started the world’s biggest clean-up project at Versova beach. The duo along with volunteers joining the clean-up every week changed the face of the beach. The results were evident with turtles coming back to the beach and enjoying the spic and span surroundings. Talking about the clean-up project and what is required, Afroz Shah said that action speaks louder than words and added,

It’s not only one man’s effort. It’s about community who rises up to save the oceans, beaches, forests, rivers, and lakes. What we saw at Versova beach was people using their hands and telling that it can be done. People think beach clean-up is about cleaning beaches but it’s not only that. It’s about changing the mind set and habits. We cannot have a world where we keep on producing garbage and then say come on, someone pick it up. That needs to be understood at a pre litter stage, litter stage and post litter stage. Once each one gets it, the world will change.

Also Read: Heroes Of Swachh India: Meet Afroz Shah, The Man Who Turned The Tide Against Dirty Beaches With His Cleanup At Versova

Further talking about the behavioural change such clean-up projects have brought among volunteers, Afroz shared an anecdote from one of the clean-ups and said,

8-year-old girl saw plastic wrapper, biscuit wrapper thrown and said I’m making efforts to not buy biscuits wrapped in plastic packaging. I’m making an effort to go to the local bakery and buy biscuits. That’s the effort we are looking. Every young person looks at the packaging and talks about making a change.

Actor Dia Mirza who has been vocal about plastic pollution and has even given up single-use plastic items like sanitary pads, water bottle, toothbrush, talked about solving the problem of plastic waste and said,

While we will continue to champion the need to reduce our plastic consumption, it’s equally necessary for us to acknowledge that unless people, government, and industries do not work together to solve the problem, we will not be able to solve it. It takes behavioural change from people, how civic bodies are managing our waste and how are industries being responsible of the waste that they are introducing into the world.

As far as industries are concerned, a law called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) under which producers have been given a responsibility for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products. A law was enforced in 2016 but according to the environmentalist Afroz Shah, nothing has been done on it apart from some paper work being initiated left, right and center.

Also Read: Amazon, Flipkart Need To Collect Plastic Packaging Waste Generated By Them: Central Pollution Control Board

Stressing on civic society taking the lead and putting pressure on industries, Dia Mirza said,

We have to continue to question what is becoming of our waste, why such an excess of waste is being introduced, why is there such excessive packaging in everything. There are things which do not require a certain amount of packaging but are packed excessively. Now a lot of businesses are going to happen online. How are they going to become responsible for their packaging? So that’s one area. Yes, EPR also needs to be implemented and companies need to rework their packaging and designing.

Having said that, Dia believes that there has been a significant shift in the way people have started to perceive their patterns of consumption.

Also Read: #IWillWearOutPlastic: This New Fashion Collection Is All About ‘Say No To Plastic’

The Impact Of Coronavirus Lockdown And Phasing Out Single-use Plastic

India is making efforts to come out of the lockdown in a staggered manner and at the same time revive economy. But the commitment to phase out single-use plastic may lead to job loss. Talking about the same, Dr Ashok Khosla, Chairman Development Alternative, said,

If you want to create jobs, plastic is not a way to do it. We need to focus on creating jobs based on living with nature.

Bharati Chaturvedi, Director at Chintan, a Delhi based NGO believes that the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown and its impact on the economy is not an obstacle rather an opportunity to phase out plastic. Elaborating on her opinion, Ms Chaturvedi said,

There has been a huge migration back to rural India. We can actually use the skills of those who have gone back from the cities to create alternatives to plastic. We do really have to invest money for a long time, to create livelihoods there. Secondly, there are plastics that can be recycled and after COVID-19, there is a huge opportunity to recycle if we put the taxation correctly. For example, a lot of recycling plants are scared to open up, especially small Tones. We need to push those incentives into them so that they can open up. Otherwise all the plastic will be thrown away and enter the ecosystem. Thirdly, replacing and promoting through economic measures is a great way to change consumption.

Also Read: Drowning In Plastic: Visualising The World’s Addiction To Plastic Bottles

Further talking about phasing out of the use of single-use plastic, Dr Ashok stressed on getting away with unnecessary fancy packaging on which we have become far too dependent. Calling to change the concept of packaging, Dr Ashok said,

Plastic can be made from bio sources so the material which is being used for packaging needs to be changed. Use natural material to create packaging and make it in such a way that it becomes biodegradable.

Sharing more ways to phase out plastic, Dr Ashok suggested changing the cost of plastic by taxing it and added,

Figure out the ways in which the cost of making single-use plastic is expensive. The real costs the cost to health, environment, and natural resources. If you don’t include all these costs than plastic is cheap and everybody will buy it. We should be adding taxes to things that are causing damage to the environment, human health, and living system.

Also Read: Around The World: Filipinos Turn Volcano’s Ash, Plastic Trash Into Bricks

Is Plastic Ban A Solution?

In 2018, Maharashtra had imposed a ban on the use of single-use plastic but almost two years down the line, it looks like ban was another effort that went wasted. Sharing her opinion on the impact of a plastic ban in Maharashtra, Dia Mirza said,

When the ban was implemented, we saw a big difference, but very quickly we saw single-use plastic coming right back especially before the elections and nobody could do anything about it. It’s a big indicator that there are lobbies and we will need to do much better than we have done so far to overcome this challenge.

Dia tells that in the initial stage of the ban, it did feel it can bring a difference but now plastic bags are back and with the current pandemic, other things like gloves, masks are being used on a large scale.

Echoing the same, Ms Chaturvedi said,

Maharashtra proves that bans are not the way forward for a country like India because we have weak regulation and enforcement system. Anything that depends on a weak system to run it will fail. Therefore, let’s reduce our consumption by finding alternatives. Waste pickers and kabaddiwala have to be a part of the system. We have to look at a far more innovative approach. You cannot ban things and say it failed because people don’t listen.

Also Read: Thailand Kicks Off 2020 By Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags, Shoppers Come Up With Innovative Alternatives

World

23,96,06,768Cases
20,13,42,617Active
3,33,82,100Recovered
48,82,051Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 23,96,06,768 and 48,82,051 have died; 20,13,42,617 are active cases and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 4:15 am.

India

3,40,37,592 16,862Cases
2,03,6782,908Active
3,33,82,100 19,391Recovered
4,51,814 379Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,37,592 confirmed cases including 4,51,814 deaths. The number of active cases is 2,03,678 and 3,33,82,100 have recovered as on October 15, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,86,280 2,384

33,157 6

64,13,418 2,343

1,39,705 35

Kerala

48,29,944 9,246

96,421 1,802

47,06,856 10,952

26,667 96

Karnataka

29,82,399 310

9,607 43

29,34,870 347

37,922 6

Tamil Nadu

26,83,396 1,259

15,451 199

26,32,092 1,438

35,853 20

Andhra Pradesh

20,59,122 540

6,588 27

20,38,248 557

14,286 10

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,008 12

135 4

16,86,976 16

22,897

West Bengal

15,79,012 530

7,576 81

15,52,491 601

18,945 10

Delhi

14,39,311 28

337 1

14,13,885 29

25,089

Odisha

10,33,809 521

4,890 38

10,20,645 477

8,274 6

Chhattisgarh

10,05,614 16

203 4

9,91,841 20

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,382 8

42 6

9,45,386 2

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,244 34

215 20

8,15,943 14

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,669 12

111 1

7,82,035 11

10,523

Haryana

7,71,035 16

105 158

7,60,881

10,049 174

Bihar

7,26,016 8

42 6

7,16,313 2

9,661

Telangana

6,68,618 168

4,171 40

6,60,512 207

3,935 1

Assam

6,05,847 207

3,646 157

5,96,263 362

5,938 2

Punjab

6,01,971 33

234 11

5,85,199 16

16,538 6

Jharkhand

3,48,406 11

130 4

3,43,141 7

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,729 28

175 22

3,36,157 6

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,30,834 93

935 11

3,25,473 104

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,113 182

1,387 5

2,16,011 173

3,715 4

Goa

1,77,356 68

679 27

1,73,342 39

3,335 2

Puducherry

1,27,259 49

647 4

1,24,763 53

1,849

Manipur

1,22,432 69

1,444 15

1,19,099 84

1,889

Mizoram

1,10,719 901

13,601 435

96,744 1,332

374 4

Tripura

84,295 4

110 8

83,369 12

816

Meghalaya

82,734 87

892 31

80,411 115

1,431 3

Chandigarh

65,295 10

32 5

64,443 15

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,958 4

202 22

54,476 26

280

Sikkim

31,722 6

224 1

31,108 7

390

Nagaland

31,516 9

230 8

30,613 17

673

Ladakh

20,867 6

44 2

20,615 4

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,675

3 1

10,668 1

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

2 0

10,312

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,640 3

10 1

7,501 2

129

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