India’s government today banned many single-use plastics in a bid to tackle the large volume of waste that ends up in the country’s rivers and poisons its flora and fauna. But the obstacles are many, according to experts, who say that consumers are reluctant to pay more and manufacturers are not prepared for this change.
India produces about four million tons of plastic annually, a third of which is not recycled and ends up in water resources and landfills. Fires often break out in landfills, exacerbating air pollution.
Half of that waste comes from single-use plastic items, a reality that India’s government is trying to change.
The new measure of the ban will concern both the production, as well as the import and sale of single-use plastics, such as straws and cups, as well as cigarette wrappers. Products such as plastic bags above a certain thickness will initially be excluded.
The first ban was adopted in 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and since then the authorities have vowed to tighten the rules.
Inspectors were out on the streets today to make sure shopkeepers were not flouting the ban, with violators facing a maximum fine of 100,000 rupees (€1,209) or five years in prison.
Almost half of India’s states have tried to impose these kinds of restrictions, but, as the state of the rivers and landfills attest, with little success.
Plastics companies, which employ millions of people, are objecting that alternatives to single-use plastics are too expensive and are lobbying the government to delay their ban.
Tzigis N. Dosi, president of the industry group Plastindia Foundation, expects “temporary” job losses but believes the most important problem is companies “that have invested huge amounts of money in machinery that probably won’t be useful” after the ban.
Satish Sinha, of the environmental group Toxics Link, reckons that “there will be resistance initially” because it is difficult to find alternatives. “There will be difficulties and we risk paying the costs, but if we are serious about the environment, this is an important an issue that requires coordinated efforts”, he added.