Plastic waste and earth have become so synonymous with each other that the pair appears to be the new world paradigm .According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation ,by 2050 ,the amount of plastic in oceans and seas across the world will weigh more than the fish itself .
Its been almost 65 years since the plastic industry was incepted in India and today ,plastic ,its use and subsequent waste management presents itself as a major roadblock to a clean ,healthy and sustainable future for India.
An average Indian consumes 11 kg of plastic every year. Now this figure may be 1/10th of The U.S. and less than 1/3rd of China but we cannot afford to keep our guard down, considering the systems and the framework we have in place ,notwithstanding the fact that the trajectory is only projected to rapidly increase owing to the ever increasing urbanization and high growth of India’s GDP rate. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas predicted the index to rise to 22 kgs by 2022.
Because of this ceaseless consumption, 25,940 tons of plastic waste is generated in India each day ,of which only 60% is recycled .43% of the manufactured plastic in the nation is used for packaging purposes and most of these are single use .
The delivery & the E-commerce problem
In addition to the retail chains ,the online delivery system which has grown astronomically in the past few years also is a major contributor to the growing plastic problem. Everything ,ranging from groceries to electronics can be ordered and received at the doorsteps of our home today. But each individual delivery makes use of plastic packaging with estimations that food deliveries alone add up to 22000 tons of plastic waste per month . While companies like Amazon ,Flipkart and Swiggy have taken up initiatives to reduce the use plastic in its packaging procedures, such companies should be held responsible at large.
The Shift in Trends
India ,along with France ,Mongolia and Several other African nations are among those who have initiated a partial /total national ban on plastic , with Sikkim being a pioneer in the imposing a complete restriction on plastic bags in 1998. Today, almost 22 states/Uts have put up such a ban in place .India’s prime minister Narendra Modi also called on the nation to work towards ending the consumption of single use plastic by 2022.
But a question thus arises,
Are these initiatives just stated and not acted upon effectively?
Recently ,the Indian government held of a plan to impose a blanket plan on the use of plastic ,stating that it could be a blow too severe to handle for the economy . In the city of Mumbai , a year after the plastic ban was implemented ,plastic carry bags and single use disposable plastic found their way back in the market just as smoothly . Time and time again ,its been evident that simply announcing these bans can be futile and for it to be effective ,the ban has to be regulated at all points ,subsequently strictly enforced and monitored.
Users should be provided with feasible alternatives and the industry itself should work with the resource and development to work on packaging alternatives. This also means that instead of a sudden plastic ban , single use plastic should be phased out according to whether they are high priority items that need to replaced immediately ,if alternatives are available ,as well as planning for those that require more time to be phased out.