PLASTIC BAN IN INDIA
Author: Ms. Kashish Khurana, School of Law Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal
Plastic bags play a very vital role in our day to day life. It is used by each and every person for one or the other purpose, may they be a businessman or a street vendor. The reason why plastic bags are so popular is that they are easy to carry and does not cost much. It is convenient to carry fluid items in them and is also helpful during the rainy season. Despite many advantages, they are harmful for the environment. Plastic bags are non-bio-degradable substance and cannot be degraded easily, hence polluting the environment. To save the environment a ban on plastic has been imposed by many economically powerful countries like China, the USA and other European nations. As far as global warming and increasing pollution have been concerned even India has taken a step towards the ban.
Initiation of the plastic ban in India
According to the Environment Protection Act, 1986 selling polythene bags is banned. But it could not be implemented to the whole extent in the country as it is a second-most populous country in the world. In 2009, Himachal Pradesh became the first state to ban plastic and polythene shopping bags in India. After the state has successfully abolished the use of plastic bags other states too started to do the same. In 2016, Karnataka imposed a complete ban on the single-use of plastic. Delhi, the capital of India also decided to take a step to save the environment and banned the poly bags in 2017. Some states like Goa and Gujarat have also imposed a partial ban, i.e. ban on some religious and natural sites. Joining these states Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra are the latest states to join the ban
The necessity of the plastic ban
- There are many reasons why the polythene bags should be banned but one of the greatest reasons is the polythene bags and plastic products take almost forever to decay. This is because they are made up of polyethylene (a high-density plastic) which can withstand any climatic condition. They have a low rate of degradation and hence take a lot of time to disintegrate themselves.
- The second obvious reason why plastic should be banned is that they tend to change the climatic conditions. As the compounds from which the plastic and polythene bags are made is derived from petroleum and fossil fuels. These plastics are produced by extracting fossil fuels and processing them. In this process, greenhouse gases are released in the atmosphere leading to the depletion of the ozone layer and being a reason for global warming.
- Plastics have also polluted our environment to a great extent. They are very light in weight and thus can be easily carried away with the air. Both terrestrial and aquatic animals are suffering due to the plastics. Especially the plastics that are being dumped by humans, is being eaten by them, causing various diseases also leading to death. Aquatic life is almost destroyed due to the waste that has been thrown by a human in the seas, lakes, and ponds.
- Burning the plastics is also not a good alternative just because burning them would release harmful gases in the atmosphere and it would be difficult for humans to survive.
- Recycling of plastic is almost an impossibility because every plastic cannot be recycled
Thus, it is high time for our country
In India, 80 % of total plastic consumption is discarded as waste and official statistics say the country generates 25, 940 tonnes of plastic waste daily. At least 40% of this waste is uncollected.It is high time now to take a step towards the safety of our environment and ban the usage of plastics.
REASONS FOR IMPOSSIBILITY OF THE BAN SO FAR
One of the biggest obstacles in the implementation of the plastic ban is the lack of political will. Almost every minister of every state has promised before the election to implement the ban and use of polythene to save the environment. In fact, a 2016 report by the Central Pollution Control Board indicated that most Indian states have not yet implemented the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2011, which mandate proper systems to ensure the segregation and disposal of plastic waste as well as crackdowns on unregistered plastic manufacturing units.
According to the report, “plastic bags are stocked, sold and used indiscriminately” even in those 17 states and Union Territories where they are completely banned.
Bags below 50 microns in thickness are the only ban imposed in the Centre’s amended Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. The rest of the rules simply lay down the basic duties of urban and rural local governing bodies to ensure the safe disposal of plastic waste and to encourage reduced use of plastics.
Rules and guidelines which were earlier made to control the plastic waste and reduce the pollution
The first government rule on Plastic waste in India was “Recycled Plastics ( Manufacture & Usage ) Rules, 1999.” The intent of this regulation was to control the packaging of food products in recycled plastics and to manage severe littering problems. Other rules, “Plastic Manufacture, Sale and Usage Rules, 1999” were amended in 2003, which mainly focused on the ban of recycled plastic bags for food packaging. Then came “Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011” which gave directions to use the recycled bags according to the directions of BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards).
LAWS THAT RESTRICT PEOPLE TO USE PLASTIC BAGS
At the World Environment Day summit on June 5, 2018, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pledged to eliminate single-use plastics from India by 2022. Keeping to his words, after the summit most of the states have taken a step towards the plastic ban. Earlier there were no laws restricting people from using the plastic bags which pollute the environment but as of now some of the states have made their own laws banning the usage of plastics. These states did not completely ban the plastics but to an extent.
Exemptions and penalties imposed by some states recently
Bihar has initiated a ban on the manufacture, import, export, distribution, transportation, sale and use of plastic from 14th December 2018. This includes a prohibition on shopkeepers, vendors, traders as well as hawkers from keeping, selling, using or distributing the plastic bags.
Exemptions: The state government has exempted the use of plastic bags above 50 microns thickness for collection, storage, and disposal of biomedical waste, plastic containers used for raising plants in nurseries and for dairy products packaging.
Penalties:- The penalty may extend up to the fine of Rs. 1,00,000 or imprisonment of 5 years or both.
Odisha has banned the usage of plastics in its 6 cities: Berhampur, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Puri, and Sambalpur – from 2nd October 2018. The ban consists of usage, storage, and production of poly bags less than 50 microns thickness
Exemptions: There is no ban on usage of plastics for the plant nurseries, agriculture, horticulture, poly bags more than 50 microns thickness and in the healthcare sector.
Penalties: A fine of Rs.1,00,000 or 5 years imprisonment for those who use, store or produce poly bags less than 50 microns thickness. The state has also decided to impose a fine ranging from Rs. 2,000-3,000 for small vendors.
Maharashtra has banned the use, manufacture, transport, wholesale and retail sale and storage, import of plastic bags, and disposable products made out of plastic and thermocol for decoration purposes. The state also restricts the use of plastic straw, non-woven polypropene bags, pouches and any other plastic used to store, package and transfer food items.
Exemptions: The exempted products include plastic used for packaging medicines and drugs, the plastic used at the manufacturing stage or for handling solid waste, plastic bags used for exporting goods, food-grade virgin plastic used for packaging milk, and compostable packaging bags used for horticulture and agriculture purposes
Penalties: Penalty for manufacturing and selling banned plastic items includes fines of up to Rs 25,000 and jail terms of up to three months.
Tamil Nadu has banned the manufacture, sale, storage, and use of disposable plastic from January 1, 2019. The ban primarily covers the use of plastic carry bags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic flags, small plastic sachets used in packaging water, among others. Exclusions, however, apply for milk, curd, oil, and medicine packaging
IMPACT OF PLASTIC BAN ON BUSINESS
Businessmen and their business will be heavily affected by the ban of plastics as the industries of plastic manufacturing would lead down to unemployment and many other factors.
In e-commerce, for instance, packaging charges comprise about two to three percent of fulfillment costs – the price of delivery, shipping, and compensating sellers for discounts. Instead of using the plastics there are more alternatives but shifting to them means expenses getting higher. Investing in machinery and any other alternative would cost much more than now.
For the food processing industry switching to anything else rather than plastic would destroy a large amount of food processed and stored.
To minimize the impact of the plastic ban on business many states have not completely banned the polythene bags or products rather provided the exemptions. This would not lead to direct unemployment and save the businessmen from the loss.
OTHER ALTERNATIVES TO THE PLASTIC
- Replace jute bags with that of plastic ones:- Jute is a biodegradable fiber that can be used instead of poly bags. It is easily available and would not cost much
- Use degradable pads during menstruation:- Instead of using those sanitary pads which is non-degradable switch to cotton pads. These would neither cost much nor create pollution.
- Use those plastics that can be easily reused:- If the total ban is impossible then it is required for us to be careful while using the products. Reuse the things instead of disposing of them in rivers and destroying aquatic life.
As of now, India does not have such strict laws regarding the ban of plastics as compared to other countries. It is not only the responsibility of the government but of each and every citizen to keep our environment safe, healthy and prosperous, because if they die, we too will one day.