Plastic ban: Good but…

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Plastic ban: Good but…

Monday, 04 July 2022 | Pioneer

Plastic ban: Good but…

There may be issues but the well-intentioned move to ban SUP mustn’t end up badly

The ban on single use plastic (SUP), which came into force on Friday, is surely well-intentioned. With this the factories producing, distributing, stocking and selling such items will be shut down. The Government has made it clear that the violations will be punished with a fine, a jail term, or both, in accordance with Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act (EPA) and the bylaws emanating from it made by municipal corporations. “At the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019, India had piloted a resolution on addressing single use plastic products pollution, recognising the urgent need for the global community to focus on this very important issue. India has today taken a defining step to curb pollution caused by littered and unmanaged plastic waste by banning single use plastic,” Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said. The Central Pollution Control Board is also reportedly trying to empower citizens so that SUP is done away with. At present, the FMCG sector is allowed to use SUP for packing, but this has to be in tune with the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) guidelines. Encyclopedia Britannica describes EPR as “a practice and a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers. Responsibility for disposal may be fiscal, physical, or a combination of the two”.

The banned items include plastic carry bags (less than 75 microns in thickness, to be revised to 120 microns in December 2022), earbuds, plastic crockery items (spoons, plates, glasses), straws, cigarette packs, sweet boxes, candy and ice cream sticks, PVC banners, and certain other plastic packaging material. The Government has recommended alternatives like jute bags, khadi bags, bamboo straws and cutlery for dining, cloth bags and steel boxes instead of thin plastic boxes. In short, the Government seems serious in implementing the ban. There are, however, concerns about the availability of alternatives. Many manufacturers have already flagged this problem. It is not clear at present whether the concerns of various businesses have been addressed in a satisfactory manner, for these are often drowned in the cacophony that green activists are capable of generating. Worse, many of the vocal environmentalists are doctrinaire in their approach. Further, the Government must also ensure that the ban does not remain focused on organised retail and FMCG corporations. There is enough empirical evidence to suggest that the earlier restrictions were imposed primarily on major companies, big stores and showrooms, whereas cottage units making goods, street hawkers selling them and vegetable venders flouted all rules. We hope that the well-intentioned move to ban SUP does not end up badly as many other similar ones did, causing immense pain to all. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We also hope that the powers that be remember that.

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