India responds to pledge to eliminate SUP by the end of 2022

On 1 July, India banned single-use plastic ranging from straws to cigarette packets to combat the country's pollution crisis. Up to 34 states and UTs have issued directives to enact full or partial bans on single-use plastic products.

25 Jul 2022 | By Janhavi Sisodia

India produces 380 million tons of plastic each year

With 19 single-use plastic items banned from 1 July, manufacturers and civil society have been trying to find suitable alternatives. Innumerable companies and industry associations as well as NGOs organised programmes during which they sensitised their audience about the single use plastic ban plus distributed cloth bags.

India produces 380 million tons of plastic each year. Of this, single-use items like packaging, cutlery and straws constitute 50% of the 380 million tons. At least 14 million tons of plastic find its way to the ocean each year. Unfortunately, it lacks an organised system for managing plastic waste, this leads to littering. Meanwhile PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, India's Parle Agro, Dabur and Amul had lobbied for straws to be exempted from the ban.

This has been because of a plastic straw shortage. The plastic straws are attached to the juices and beverages packaging which is sold in the country. As a result beverage majors like Dabur India and Parle Agro, are attempting to replace plastic straws with imported paper versions. As per information from the Recycling Beverage Cartons, an association of leading beverage makers, "India uses six billion straws annually. There is no domestic capacity for paper straws. The Indian manufacturers of biodegradable plastic are in a position to provide 8% of the total demand of the beverage companies."

Also, in a relief to consumers, the government of India has asked manufacturers and importers to increase the thickness to promote reuse. Other than the food and beverage and consumer goods companies, plastic manufacturers have stated that the 1 July single-us plastic ban has not given them adequate time to prepare for the restrictions. More than 88,000 companies in India produce single-use plastic products. These companies employ about one million people.

So far, the ban has been effective in pockets. The Pollution Control Board officials in various cities and towns across India have been carrying out enforcement drive/field inspection on the ban of identified single-use plastic items. As per reports trickling in, the ban has had an effect on disposable plastics such as straws, cutlery, headphones, cigarette packs and plastic balloons. A large number of industry forums across India have upheld the government's ban.

Meanwhile the official account of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) 2.0 issued a statement that "Source segregation has shown conspicuous results in the country's sanitation drive. Many cities have successfully implemented 100% source segregation with the help of citizens participation." It added, "The 3R formula of reuse, reduce and recycle leads to creativity and environmental sustainability. We have numerous plastic waste around us. Let us recycle and create something useful out of them. Recycle your plastic waste and reduce plastic pollution. "

There has been talk of bee wax coated cloth as an eco-friendly alternative to single use plastic. The proponent of this substrate, Supriya Sahu IAS (and Addl Chief Secretary Environment Climate Change & Forests, Govt of Tamil Nadu) said that "no cling film is needed, and no aluminium foil or plastic needed to pack food. Plus it can be easily used multiple times."

Likewise Stora Enso is poised to begin pilot production of a new, 100% bio-based alternative to PET plastics that it believes could be a “game changer” in the packaging industry. The Finland-headquartered group believes the material could replace plastic bottles, aluminium cans and glass jars for a wide variety of uses.

In India, Central Institute of Petroleum Chemical Engineering (CIPET) and the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises of India will establish a capacity-building workshop to provide technical support for the manufacture of products to replace banned disposable plastics items.

Actor and UNEP's goodwill ambassador, Dia Mirza said "This single-use plastic ban is ours to implement. Let’s do our bit to ensure we refuse all SUPs."

Some steps which you can implement

  • Environmental awareness
  • Carry your water bottle
  • Carry your shopping bag
  • Use eco-friendly products
  • Reduce reuse and recycle
  • Walk (or cycle) if possible