From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Plastic ban - challenges due to plastic use and way ahead
India is embarking on a “very large campaign” to get rid of single-use plastic.
Plastic – threats
- Plastic poses a serious threat to the planet.
- This oil-derived material is not bio-degradable. Careless disposal pollutes the environment.
- The urban crisis of choked drains and garbage heaps, which can’t be incinerated.
- Several species at threat of polymer ingestion.
- Marine life has been suffering since much plastic waste ends up in the sea and in the bellies of aquatic creatures.
- Micro-particles are increasingly being detected in fish, which puts people at risk of contaminant-caused illnesses.
- The government clarified that it would spread awareness about the menace of plastic and create plastic-free zones around heritage sites to begin with.
- In the absence of sufficient alternatives to plastic, an outright ban would have caused much disruption across the country.
- Users of some flexible items such as carry bags can easily switch to slightly more expensive material. Those of hard-plastic products, such as disposable syringes, would have found an overnight switch-over difficult to achieve.
- The government, through its Swachhata Hi Seva campaign, plans to acquaint Indians with the perils of plastic and ask people to voluntarily reduce its use.
- It intends to ask all states to enforce existing rules against the storage, manufacture, and use of some single-use products, such as polythene bags.
Other steps needed
- Efforts should first be directed at waste disposal mechanisms. These remain archaic.
- Separation-at-source garbage collection has seen only patchy success in India.
- Plastic items rarely have separate channels for recycling.
- Moral suasion could change attitudes here.A nudge of some sort such as express trash clearance assured to those who put anything “poly” in marked-out bins.
- Final disposal will need well-sealed landfills, inspired loosely by burial crypts for spent nuclear fuel rods.
- Institutional and corporate reduction of plastic use, a broad incentive scheme in favour of alternative material could be put in place.
- Defray the financial cost of switching to eco-friendly material.
- Manufacturers are likely to suffer if the material’s consumption were to drop. They need sufficient time to revise their business plans and move on to other opportunities.
As demand begins to decline, a timeline could be declared for the elimination of some categories of plastic use. How well the objective is achieved would depend on how well we combine coaxing with coercion to wean the world off plastic.