Govt to set up control rooms to enforce single-use plastic ban: Minister

WITH THE ban on single-use plastic coming into force on July 1, the government will be setting up control rooms at national and state levels to ensure its effective enforcement, Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav said on Tuesday.

Apart from the control rooms, which will be supervised by the Central Pollution Control Board, special enforcement teams will be formed to check illegal manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the 12 banned single-use plastic items that was announced by the ministry last year. States and Union Territories have been asked to set up border check points to stop inter-state movement of any banned single-use plastic item, said CPCB officials.

The list of banned items include ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream
sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.

“The items have been chosen on the basis of three criteria – their low utility, high littering potential and availability of alternative materials. We know that the manufacturers of these banned items have already shifted or are in the process of shifting, and notices had been sent out by the CPCB last year to these companies alerting them of the ban and to begin the process. We have given manufacturers plenty of time for preparation – 11 months – before the ban was to come into force. We believe that we have their support and cooperation,” said Yadav at an informal press briefing.

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According to the CPCB, plastic waste generation in 2020-21 was 41,26,997 tonnes, while per capita waste generation was 3 kg per annum. There are 683 units manufacturing single-use plastic with a cumulative capacity of 2.44 lakh per annum. The CPCB has already revoked or modified the consent of 433 units.

The CPCB further said that characterization of plastic waste in 18 cities has found that the percentage of single-use plastic in total plastic waste is between 10% and 35 %.

The use of these items by consumers is also banned. But the minister has said, that penalties are unlikely to be transferred to the consumer as, “If the banned item simply does not exist in the market, then it can’t be used.’’

Yadav said the government has over the past year focused on encouraging industry and MSMEs to come up with alternatives to plastic, including biodegradable plastic and compostable plastic.

The government has awarded works to seven startups developing solutions, including bio-degradable packaging material made from crop stubble waste among others.

Till June this year, the CPCB has already awarded certificates to 194 plants for production of compostable plastic with another 61 applications in process. The certified plants have a capacity to produce 3 lakh tonnes of compostable plastic per annum.

Senior polymer scientist and adjunct professor at Mumbai-based Institute of Chemical technology, Dr Vijay G Habbu, however, warned against bio-degradable and compostable plastic.

“The direction that the government has taken is the correct one by targeting low utility items first. However, biodegradable plastic can be very hazardous because in order for plastic to degrade, additives need to be added which fragments plastic into micro-plastics – and this can be very difficult to deal with, while it continues to remain in the environment,” he said.

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