Plastic Bans In Five States, Here’s How India Fared In Fighting Plastic Pollution In 2018

Plastic Bans In Five States, Here’s How India Fared In Fighting Plastic Pollution In 2018

India generates 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annually and it aims to eliminate single-use plastic items by 2022. Here’s a look at steps taken by some of the states in 2018 to fight against plastic pollution
India generates 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annuallyIndia generates 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annually

Mumbai: ‘Single-use’ – that is the word of the year according to Collins dictionary. It does not come as a surprise considering the globally trending issue of ‘single-use’ plastic items. Organisations like World Economic Forum (WEF), United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) came out with several reports with hard-hitting facts on plastic pollution explaining the irreversible damage it is causing to lives living under and above water. Nearly 193 countries including India pledged to work towards eliminating plastic pollution in the sea at the United Nations (UN) Environment Assembly in 2017 that was held in Nairobi, Kenya.

As countries across the world take action to combat plastic pollution, India came up with an ambitious goal to eliminate single-use plastic items like straws, cutlery, bottles, bags, etc by 2022 from lives of 1.3 billion people living in the fastest growing economy in the world. That seems like a tall order, given the deadline is just four years away. Recognising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment towards eliminating single-use plastic items in India by 2022, the United Nation’s bestowed him with, ‘Champions of Earth’ award in September this year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said on World Environment Day (June 5) this year,

The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.

As 2018 makes way for 2019, here’s a recap of major steps taken to discourage the use of plastic across India:

Maharashtra

Keeping in mind the national target of making the country free from single-use plastic items by 2022, Maharashtra state environment minister Ramdas Kadam imposed a ban on all kinds of single use plastic products like spoons, cups, straws, plates, glasses, etc on June 23. Though within a period of six months the government relaxed the ban to remove items like milk pouches and food packaging from the list of banned items, it recorded a reduction in plastic waste generation by nearly 40 per cent as per a report by Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB).

To execute the ban effectively, the state has imposed hefty fines on anyone found using banned plastic items in the state. While first time offender will be fined Rs. 5,000, second and third time offender will have to pay Rs. 10,000 and 25,000 respectively.

Also Read: Maharashtra Plastic Ban: State To Distribute 35 Lakh Cloth Bags Among Students 

The civic corporations have conducted several raids and imposed fines and so far, 400 tonnes of banned plastic has been seized and fines of Rs. 3.5 crore collected under the state-wide ban. The state government aims to reuse the seized plastic in laying roads.

Maharashtra Plastic Ban On Ground Reality

Among the states that have imposed a ban on plastics, Maharashtra has increased its collection centres in the last few months. Nearly 800 carry bag manufacturing units in Maharashtra are shut. The State’s Finance Department is still studying the impact of the ban on plastic in the state.

– Dr. Sonia D. Henam, Deputy Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Waste Management Team), Centre for Science and  Environment.

Odisha

Realising the mammoth task of enforcing a ban on an item that is omnipresent and an integral part of everyone’s life, the Odisha government announced a phase-wise ban on single-use plastic items. On Gandhi Jayanti this year, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced ban on plastic items in six cities including Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Rourkela and the seaside town of Puri. The Chief Minister had said that plastic prohibition would come into effect across Odisha over the next two years. Those violating the order will undergo a five-year jail term with a fine of up to a maximum of Rs. 1 lakh. The state has also decided to introduce a penalty provision of Rs. 2000-Rs. 3000 for small traders.

In Puri, when a team led by District Collector Jyoti Prakash Das raided shops near Jagannath Temple a week after the ban, they found the response of people quite encouraging as around 80 per cent of people were seen using alternative means.

In the last two odd months, the Berhampur Municipal Corporation (BMC) has managed to restrict the use of banned plastic items by raiding shops, markets and other public places. It has also raised the fine to Rs 5,000 and harsh actions like cancelling retailers license are being undertaken by the corporation. The BMC has so far collected fines over 1.40 lakhs and seized around 400 kilos of plastic.

Also ReadOdisha Man Covers Himself In Plastic Bottles And Bags To Spread Awareness About Waste Crisis

While Berhampur’s collection of plastic items is high, the ancient city of Bhubaneswar is going back to its roots by opting for eco-friendly options that was used by their ancestors. For instance, most of the shopkeepers in the city are using cloth bags, ‘Khali-Patra’ (sal leaves) or ‘Khagaz Thunga’ (paper packets) instead of plastic packaging. It was only in the first month of the ban that the officials from Bhubaneswar municipal corporation conducted raids and fined people confirmed an official from the civic corporation.

Odisha Plastic Ban On Ground Reality

As a measure, Sambalpur Municipal Corporation (SMC) is planning to install Reverse Vending Machines (RVM) to deal with plastic waste and discourage littering. The Berhampur Municipal Corporation (BeMC) has decided to ten-fold hike in fine to enforce the plastic ban effectively. But the problem remains — what alternatives exist to single-use plastics? The manpower requirements and enforcement challenges are enormous.

– Dr. Sonia D. Henam, Deputy Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Waste Management Team), Centre for Science and  Environment.

Uttar Pradesh

Like Odisha, the Uttar Pradesh government also imposed the plastic ban in phases this year. In July, polythene bags of less than 50 microns were banned, followed by a ban on single-use plastic items on 72 nd Independence Day. In the third and final phase, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led government put a total ban on non-bio-degradable polythene on October 2. Under the new rule, people found with 100 grams of polythene would be fined Rs. 1,000 and those with five kilogram will have to cough up Rs. 25,000.

To ensure the ban does not fail for the fourth time in the state (plastic ban was previously imposed in 2015, 2016 and 2017) due to poorly structured laws and even weaker implementation, Chief Minister Adityanath set a stern example by banning use of plastic water bottles at his state secretariat office.  A Pottery Board was also set up to revive pottery and handcrafted earthenware. The board is monitoring the setting up of earthenware industries, giving rapid clearances to them and promoting the use of earthenware among people. In line with this concept, the state government in their political rallies even started using earthen pots or paper glasses to serve water instead of plastic water bottles or plastic glasses.

In terms of figures, 112 tonnes of banned plastic items have been seized and approximately 2.32 crores have been collected through fines. The seized plastic is presently stored in respective storehouses of cities and villages which will be recycled and used for laying roads.

When asked about the implementation status of plastic ban in the state, Sarva Daman Singh, Solid Waste Management expert, Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) told NDTV,

The implementation on ground has been successful, but to execute any law or scheme, generating awareness is crucial. We are currently working towards changing the behaviour of the people. The change will not be reflected overnight it will take some time for people to adjust to the ban.

Among the number of measures taken by the state government, street plays and restricting plastic bag production are significant ones points out Mr Singh.

There are around 350 polythene manufacturing factories in the state and all of them have been asked to stop the production. This is the only way to stop plastic bag flow in the markets. All the district officials have been assigned duties to monitor the and execute this move. We are also conducting street plays every day across the state to sensitise people about the ban and waste segregation.

Uttar Pradesh Plastic Ban On Ground Reality

Uttar Pradesh is the silent state as of now in case of a plastic ban. It started with great enthusiasm, now we don’t see any news about implementation on ground or collection of fines.

– Dr. Sonia D. Henam, Deputy Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Waste Management Team), Centre for Science and  Environment.

Bihar

Ending the year on a no-plastic note, Bihar Department of Environment Forest and Climate Change along with Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) banned all kinds of polythene and plastic bags from December 24 in urban and rural areas of the state.

Plastic carry bags are non-biodegradable, produce toxic gases on burning, cause choking of sewers and drains, reduce soil fertility and pose threat to life of cattle eating plastic waste along with their feed. Hence, the Bihar government has imposed a complete ban on the manufacture, store, import, transport, sale and use of plastic carry bags, said S N Jaiswal, an official from the BSPCB.

Under section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, households using banned items will be charged up to Rs 500 and commercial establishments will be charged up to Rs 5,000. The penalty will be harsher if the person or an organisation is caught for the third time. An individual may face imprisonment that may extend up to five years or a fine, that may extend up to one lakh or both.

Also Read: Locals In Bihar’s West Champaran District Upcycle Plastic Waste To Construct A Urinal

All the district administrations and civic corporations have formed special squads that will monitor the ban. On the first day of the ban itself the Patna Municipal Corporation collected a fine of Rs 60,000 and raided close to 200 shops in the city.

Bihar Plastic Ban On Ground Reality

It is reported that people are seen using alternatives of plastic more on day one and two of the ban. However, it is too soon to comment on how successful the ban is.

– Dr. Sonia D. Henam, Deputy Programme Manager, Environmental Governance (Waste Management Team), Centre for Science and  Environment.

Tamil Nadu

While some states have already implemented a ban on plastic items and a few states are ending the year on a no-plastic note, Tamil Nadu is all set to welcome the New Year with a ban on plastic. “With the cooperation and contribution of all, let us gift a plastic-free Tamil Nadu for the future generations of the state,” Chief Minister K Palaniswami said announcing the plan of plastic ban on World Environment Day this year.

Plastic items including plastic sheets used for food wrapping, plastic/thermocol plates, cups, bags of all sizes and thickness, water pouches, straws, flags will be banned in the state from 2019. To ensure that the day-to-day activities of people isn’t affected, the state government has listed eco-friendly alternatives made from paper, cloth, leaves, clay and metal in its notification ban.

Close to 50,000 plastic Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the state are likely to suffer financial loses once the ban becomes effective from January 1 said C Babu, Immediate Past President of Tamil Nadu Small and Tiny Industries Association (TANSTIA). Calling the ban indiscriminate, the manufacturers of polypropylene bags have moved the Madras High Court seeking an exemption in the ban.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Hotels Association has announced a discount of 5 per cent on the bill if customers bring in their own utensils in a bid to stop the use of plastic food containers and to encourage customers to go green.

Where Do Other Countries Stand With Plastic Pollution

With 80 per cent of marine litter comprising plastic, instances of plastic residue found in marine species – such as fish, sea turtles, seals, whales and birds and therefore in the human food chain has increased by 40 per cent in the last decade. Nearly 700 marine species in world oceans are threatened by plastic. In such a grave scenario, a move to reduce plastic flow in to water bodies is the need of the hour and the European Union (EU) Parliament has backed this by committing to eliminate single-use plastic items by 2021. There will be a plastic ban on products where alternatives are readily available and affordable, including plastic cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons.

Worldwide, at least 32 countries like Bangladesh, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, France, Italy, Kenya and two U.S. states (California and Hawaii) have banned single-use plastic bags. Meanwhile in April this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that United Kingdom will work to ban single-use straws and cotton swabs in an attempt to nationally ban plastic waste by 2042. China, on the other hand welcomed 2018 by putting a ban on imports of plastic items.

Also Read: Plastic Ban: What India Can Learn From Other Countries

Conclusion: Why Plastic Ban In India Remains Ineffective

According to a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report, India generates 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, and the country accounts for 60% of plastic waste dumped into the world’s oceans every year. Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra are among top ten rivers which carry 90 per cent of plastic to the world’s oceans. To reduce the plastic waste generation, nearly 26 states in India have imposed a blanket or partial ban on plastics. However, the ban remains ineffective in majority of the states as there is widespread availability of and demand for polythene bags.

It took less than a week in Delhi for people to start using plastic bags after it was banned. One of the major reasons was the lack of vigilance and a lag in executing punishments. A decentrailised system is needed to ensure that there are no gaps or corruption. For instance, a traffic cop should be given the authority to issue a challan to a citizen who is found with a banned plastic item. If India has to ensure that the ban isn’t temporary, both, authorities and people must take up the responsibility. Otherwise, it will just be like another ban, says Swati Sambyal, Programme Manager, Centre for Science and Environment.

Lack of plastic alternatives is another problem that India needs to overcome if it has to implement the ban successfully. Though the eco-friendly options may not be expensive but when one compares the price range with plastic it usually ends up 50% higher. Besides the affordability issue, the availability of greener options also stand in the way as the demand is less. Ms Sambyal adds,

The authorities must take full charge of providing alternatives to prevent people from switching back to plastics. In fact, for a few months it should give alternatives at a subsidised rate so that people get into the habit.

Also Read: Recycling Plastic Waste Can Help Create More Jobs In India, Experts Believe

As per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, all the plastic manufacturing/recycling units must be registered with the concerned State Pollution Control Boards. However, there are close to 300 unregistered plastic manufacturing/recycling units still running in states where a plastic ban exists, according to a CPCB report.

Carry bag shall not be provided free of cost by retailers to customers and concerned municipal authority will be responsible for registration of shopkeepers/retailers, willing to provide plastic carry bags to the customers. However, it is observed that most of the States/UTs have not set-up proper monitoring system for use of carry bags as per the specified guidelines. It has been observed that those States/UTs, who have imposed complete ban on use and sell of plastic carry bags, the plastic bags are stocked, sold and used indiscriminately, adds the report.

The same report also underlines that most of the states have not established an organised system to collect the plastic waste which is resulting into widespread littering of plastic waste in towns and cities of the country. Only a few like Goa, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha and Tamil Nadu are transporting their plastic waste to cement plants. Besides, few other states namely: Nagaland, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are using plastic waste for polymer bitumen road construction.

So far the plastic bans in India have been marred by poor enforcement and failure to provide viable, eco-friendly alternatives. At this rate eliminating single-use plastic by 2022, which is just three years away, will not be easy for a country of India’s size.

Also Read: Plastic Is Choking Our Planet, To Save It, This City Has A Solution – Anti-Slippery And Recyclable Tiles 

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollutionclean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies

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