Ministry of Environment launches awareness campaign on single-use plastics

The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change on Tuesday, June 8, launched a campaign to create awareness against the use of single-use plastics. It reiterates the government’s commitment to phase out identified single-use plastic items which have low utility and high adverse environmental impact.

What are single-use plastics?

Plastics that are thrown away after their first use are known as single-use plastics. According to the United Nations, much of the plastics produced today are designed to be thrown away after first use.

Why is phasing out single-use plastics the need of the hour?

United Nations data says that since the 1950s, the production of plastics has outpaced that of almost every other material. In 2015, 400 million tonnes of plastics were produced in the world, of which 36% constituted plastic packaging. Moreover, the total plastic packaging waste accounted for 141 million tonnes in 2015.

Every minute, truckloads of plastic is immersed into our oceans. As per a UN report, in a year, 13 million metric tonnes of plastic is dumped into the oceans. With global plastic production expected to skyrocket in the next 10-15 years, the already grim condition may deteriorate further.

PM Modi’s vision to phase out single-use plastics by 2022

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his vision for India 2021 shared that our country must phase out the use of single-use plastics by 2022 to help the environment thrive better. Union Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar said, “Considering the adverse impacts of littered single-use plastic items on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi gave a clarion call to phase out single-use plastics by 2022, and the government has taken effective measures to manage plastic waste.” Keeping this in view, several ministries have taken initiatives to achieve the said goal.

Government’s initiative

According to the Environment Minister, the Government of India has already banned the import of plastic waste in the country.

Moreover, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, banned the use of plastic carry bags below 50 microns.

In addition to this, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change has issued the draft Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021 which proposes a blanket ban on several plastic items.

“Many states/UTs have also banned identified single-use plastic items. Further, the Ministry has issued a draft notification in March 2021 for amending the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, with respect to prohibiting identified 12 single-use plastic items such as disposable plastic cutlery, etc,” added Prakash Javadekar.

In September 2019, a blanket ban on all types of single-use plastic products in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and all its PSUs including Food Corporation of India (FCI) was put in place. The Ministry of Railways has also directed all its railway units to enforce a ban on single-use plastic material, with less than 50 microns thickness from October 2, 2019.

Plan of Action:

(i) Awareness generation and behavioral change to adopt eco-friendly alternatives to plastic.

(ii) Regulatory regime for phase-out of identified single-use plastic items under Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016.

(iii) Engagement with central ministries, State Governments, Local Bodies for better enforcement and wider penetration of alternatives to single-use plastic items.

(iv) Engagement with industry and industry associations for assistance and capacity building.

(v) Strengthening of institutional mechanism for enforcement of PWM Rules.

About the campaign

With the mission to bring about a behavioral change, the ministry launched a two-month awareness generation campaign on plastic waste management and the elimination of identified single-use plastic items.

The Two-month long awareness campaign, in association with GIZ, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, will comprise several regional events.

Four online regional events, a social media campaign, hackathon, and student contests will be held as part of the initiative. The regional events will include interactive sessions on various themes related to single-use plastics and plastic waste management.

India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021

To support innovation and entrepreneurship to tackle plastic waste pollution and elimination of single-use plastic, the minister also announced “India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021” which calls upon start-ups, entrepreneurs, and students of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to develop innovative solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and develop alternatives to single-use plastics.

A pan- India essay writing competition for school students will also be organized under the awareness campaign.

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