India is on its way towards banning single-use plastics (SUPs). Many of the states and union territories have already put a ban on the use of plastic. Even around the globe, around 90+ countries have put restrictions on single-use plastics. According to a UN report, today’s total production of plastics all over the world is 300 million tonnes every year, which is equivalent to the weight of the entire human population on earth. Thus, India’s step towards banning SUPs is a major initiative towards climate change. In this scenario, the very first thing to know is: what exactly is single-use plastic?
Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These items include items like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda, and water bottles and most food packaging. These plastics take hundreds and thousands of years to decompose. They pollute the land, soil and also marine ecosystems, thereby, ultimately degrading our environment. Even the production of plastics is non-ecofriendly because it uses a large number of energy fuels in its production. According to data, the total amount of energy you require to drive a car for 1 km is the equivalent energy required to produce 9 plastic bags.
According to the Environment Ministry, about 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day in the country, out of which only 13000-14000 tonnes are collected. So, where does such a large amount of plastic go every day? Even if we live far away from water bodies, most plastics end up going into rivers and oceans. Plastic waste is dumped into the landfills and many a time, it is blown away by the wind and rainwater to drains thereby choking them. Through these drains, it flows into the rivers and seas where it poses a threat to marine life. We all might have frequently heard news about various fishes and marine creatures dying because of suffocation, drowning or starvation caused due to entanglement or ingestion of plastics present in water bodies.
Not just animals, it is a threat to humankind. Many of the chemicals used in plastics can cause various eyes, nose, and especially skin related problems. More than that, plastics are a major threat to our environment and biodiversity. According to a report published in 2019 called “Plastic and Climate”, the contribution of plastics in the greenhouse gases is equivalent to 850 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Thus, banning of single-use plastics, which are used in such a large amount, will lead to a sustainable step to save the future of India.
However, just banning such plastics is not the only step needed. We need further steps to bring alternatives to these single-use plastics. For that, India needs to invest in research and development of new and innovative alternatives which are eco-friendly and affordable, at the same time. Along with this, the management of plastic waste is vital. Although such a ban would cause short term challenges for the consumers, as well as manufacturers, and service providers who depend on single-use plastics, such short-term difficulties will bring long term benefits in saving our environment and life on earth.