What is single-use plastic?
Single-use plastic meaning: Single-use plastic is a form of plastic that is disposable, which is only used once and then has to be thrown away or recycled.
Single-use plastic items: The single-use plastic items include plastic bags, water bottles, soda bottles, straws, plastic plates, cups, most food packaging and coffee stirrers.
Why is single-use plastic being banned?
With climate and environment becoming a rising global concern, plastic pollution and plastic waste management have become the focal point of worry.
Millions of tons of plastic is being produced every year, which is not biodegradable. Hence, the countries across the globe are adopting and implementing strategies aimed at eliminating the use of single-use plastic.
As only 1-13 percent of the plastic items are recyclable, the rest ends up either buried in the land or water bodies, eventually reaching the oceans, leading to polluting of water bodies and killing of marine life.
Most of the plastic is not biodegradable and over a period of time the plastic breaks up and releases toxic chemicals into the water bodies, which in turn make their way into food and water supplies.
If the plastic does not end up in the water, it ends up as a huge pile of waste that is hard to dispose of. Many of the south Asian countries have become global dump yards of plastic. The plastic pile-up is not only affecting the human body but also choking the environment.
The UN Environment head Erik Solheim had also highlighted earlier that plastic pollution is one of the world's biggest environmental threats and countries have to come up with a better plastic waste management and disposal plan to deal with the huge plastic dump that is degrading the environment.
India's effort to curb use of single-use plastic
India in the first phase of its campaign against single-use plastic will spread nation-wide awareness about harmful effects of single-use plastic. In the second phase, the government agencies will collect all the single-use plastic items and they will be recycled in the last phase.
The government will be introducing penalties for violation of the single-use plastic ban but the penalties are expected to come into effect six months after the ban, in order to give people time to adopt alternatives to the single-use plastic items.
Some states in India have already introduced a ban on sale, storage and use of single-use plastic items such as Sikkim , Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland and Jharkhand .
Air India, national carrier also announced its plan of banning single-use plastic items in its flights from October 2, 2019. In the first phase, the airlines will implement the ban on all flights of Air India Express and Alliance air and in the second phase, the plan will be implemented in Air India flights.
Global single-use plastic ban
The European Union has targeted to eliminate single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, knives, forks and cotton buds by 2021.
China is also gradually cutting down its use of single-use plastics. One of China's island provinces, Hainan, has already set its goal of eliminating single-use plastic by 2025. The Chinese Government also imposed a ban on the import of foreign plastic waste, forcing countries like the US and UK to find new outlets to dispose off their plastic trash. As a result, plastic waste was redirected in huge quantities to Southeast Asian nations.
Marriott International, one of the world's largest hotel chain, also announced that it would be eliminating the single-use toiletry bottles from its toiletry kit for guests. The move is a part of the hotel chain to reduce its environmental impact.
Single-use plastic alternatives
There is no viable alternative as of now for single-use plastic items. The alternative to single-use plastic items, especially single-use plastic bottles, which are used to sell packaged drinking water, needs to be affordable for the consumers. A drinking water bottle, which costs Rs 20 currently, cannot be priced higher than that. Further, customers have shown confidence in the sealed water bottles over the years and hence, the alternative should also be up to the mark.
Since recycling of plastic is not a permanent solution, manufacturers of single-use plastic have been asked to look for other alternatives that are biodegradable. Railway ministry, which manufactures and sells packaged drinking water 'Rail Neer' is also looking for alternatives including polymers to make their packaging biodegradable.