The term e-commerce in India opened doors to globalisation and convenient purchasing but also contributed profusely to the increasing problem of plastic pollution in India. With the current digital world, online shopping sites are mushrooming and making business organisations switch over from the traditional method of selling goods. The plastic packaging and covering involved in this business model is also large. To ensure that the sold items are intact and safe the e-commerce companies wrap the items in multiple layers of plastic sheets and plastic bubble sheets. The plastic used is non-biodegradable and is recycled in very small percentages means that Earth is becoming a big dumping ground for plastics.
The commerce and industry ministry last year had advised e-commerce platforms to gradually slash single-use plastic in packaging of products being sold through their platforms, in line with the government’s commitment to reduce use of such material. The plastic waste from these platforms accounts to more than 40% of non-fibre plastic.
With the introduction of EPR there seems a way out. Through pan Indian level of implementation of EPR the government shall engage with all key stakeholders to produce a cheaper and biodegradable alternative to plastics that can be used in packaging with equal ease and equal efficiency. Only when the companies are provided with better alternative, wholescale level replacement for plastics can be envisaged. Although, the response towards EPR from E-commerce giants have been positive. Amazon has already introduced ‘paper cushions’ which have completely replaced plastic dunnage across their fulfilment centres in India. Flipkart also stated that it is working on finding eco-friendly alternative for plastic packaging which is resilient and durable. The existing EPR Norms must be implemented effectively, along with raising awareness about plastic pollution among the public. Only a ‘bottom-up approach’ can reap desired dividends in our fight against plastic.