The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, via a notification1 dated February 4th, 2022, has reiterated and publicized the complete ban on the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of single use plastic (SUP) items included plastic straws. The ban comes into effect from July 01, 2022.
Details of Plastic ban
The ban on single use plastics and plastic straws emanates from the 2021 amendment to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 20162. The said amendment added a new rule3 that stipulates prohibition on manufacture, import, stocking, sale and distribution of the following single use plastics, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities:
- Plastic straws
- Earbuds with plastic sticks
- Plastic sticks for balloons
- Plastic flags
- Candy sticks
- Ice-cream sticks
- Thermocol for decoration
- Packaging Films of less than 100 micron thickness
- Plastic cutlery
- Plates and cups
Under the rules, the Central Pollution Control Board, along with respective state Pollution Control Boards, have been entrusted with the responsibility to monitor the ban, identification of the violators and imposition of penalties as given under the relevant provisions of Environment Protection Act, 1986. They have also been directed to ensure zero inventory of the aforementioned items by June 30, 2022.
Impact of plastic ban
Impact of the ban can be analysed from two different perspectives, based on its probable effect on the following:
- Manufacturing & Services Sector- the impact of this ban is going to be expansive, affecting many stakeholders in these sectors. From E-commerce giants to FMCG players, both big and small, this ban will undercut everyone's margins. Packaging costs will increase for E-commerce and logistics players, while the low-cost consumable drinks makers will also feel the heat of this new environmental regulation in the form of compulsion to import environment-friendly paper straws, at least in the short run. Such added costs in the form of high packaging & logistics and probable supply-side constraints vis-à-vis environment-friendly alternatives will also impact the pockets of everyday consumers who might see an increase in the prices of FMCG products. Moreover, an increase in the retail price might also affect the demand side of the whole equation, impacting the revenue of the players.
- Environment & Ecology Sector– on the other hand, such a ban could be a much-needed respite for the deteriorating environmental conditions in India. It is widely known that SUPs take hundreds of years to disintegrate, this fact become exponentially graver given that 43%4 of all the plastic waste generated in India is SUP. Such SUP waste has been found to be responsible for a myriad of ecological disasters including, but not limited to, micro-plastic pollution in the oceans, soil toxicity, cattle deaths from asphyxiation, etc. the toxic chemicals used for the production of SUPs have been a source of toxicity to the environment and even into our food supply for decades.
This ban presents with itself a spectrum of new possibilities, beneficial in the long run and disruptive in the short run.
On one hand, it will have an immediate disruptive effect on the packaging and manufacturing industries. They will be forced to look for short-term import-based green alternatives. The added costs of such alternatives will cut their way through the pockets of the end consumer. However, this also represents a golden opportunity for said industries, MSMEs, and the startup ecosystem to come up with innovative, and environment-friendly ideas to navigate through this situation. Use and manufacture of bio-degradable, non-toxic alternatives of plastic may gain mainstream recognition and acceptance. The ban is also short in the arm of India's intended contribution toward sustainable development and cutting down on its carbon footprint.
A diligent and efficient ban on SUP, thus, could be a game-changer with a considerable impact on the lifestyle and consumption habits of Indians and the environment & ecology of India.
1 No. F. No. B- 17011/7/PWM/2022
2 CG-DL-E-12082021-228947, The Gazette of India, August 12, 2021
4 Single-use plastic: Problems and alternatives, TERI, https://www.teriin.org/infographics/single-use-plastic-problems-and-alternatives (last visited Jun 13, 2022).
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