Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

[op-ed snap] Plastic-free India is a nudge away

 Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016), Nudge theory

Mains level: The editorial discusses how nudge theory can be implemented in reducing usage of plastic


Context

Change in Plastic Waste Management Rules

  1. The Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change amended the Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016)
  2. According to the amendment, manufacturers, suppliers, and sellers of plastic (and plastic products) across the nation will now be required to phase out, over a period of two years, all such products which have no alternative use or are non-recyclable and non-energy recoverable
  3. This move was preceded by a state-wide ban in Maharashtra on the manufacture, usage, sale (wholesale and retail), distribution, storage and import of plastic bags and all disposable products made out of plastic

Impact of the ban on average Indian citizen

  1. To the people employed in the industry, it could mean the shutdown of factories and potential job losses
  2. To the consumer, it would mean choosing between alternatives that are either too expensive, impractical or not as easily available
  3. The unrealistic timeline for the implementation of the plastic ban has caught all stakeholders unawares, making it extremely difficult to comply with

An end-to-end approach to eradicate the use and sale of plastic

NUDGING CONSUMERS

  • The government can nudge rather than coerce citizens to demand and use less plastic
  • A “nudge”, as Nobel laureate Richard Thaler defines it, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives
  • One way of doing this would be to give discounts to customers who bring their own bags, or reward points for not requesting a plastic bag—as opposed to fining, penalizing, or charging high prices
  • Normative social influence bias can be leveraged to nudge Indian citizens away from plastic
  • This bias taps into people’s intrinsic urge to conform and be liked by those around them
  • Another nudge, which has been extremely successful globally in donation scenarios, is the “opt-out model”
  • Here, customers would by default be considered as opted-in for non-plastic items, forcing them to manually opt-out to choose otherwise

Way forward

  1. In 2025, it is estimated that the annual input of plastic waste from land to ocean will be over 16 million metric tons—almost 100 bags of plastic per foot of coastline in the world
  2. Estimated 60-95% of this marine pollution comes from land-based sources (primarily plastic), resulting in the death of 100,000 marine mammals annually, apart from killing millions of birds and fish
  3. India has indeed taken a step in the right direction, with 18 states and Union territories having imposed a complete ban on plastic
  4. But we also need to realize that a ban can only be a means to an end, and not the end itself
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