A year on, how useful has been India’s single-use plastic ban? Not much, finds out a study
The lowest compliance to the ban was recorded in Delhi (88 %), followed by Gwalior (84 %), Mumbai (71 %), and Guwahati (77 %). Bengaluru had the least usage of single-use plastics among the surveyed cities.
गाँव कनेक्शन 10 Oct 2023 2:17 PM GMT
A year after India banned the use of single-use plastic products, a new study by New Delhi-based non-profit Toxics Link shows how the ban has remained only on paper and such products, including disposable plates and glasses, were being widely used in the country.
The study titled ‘Single Use Plastic Ban in India’, which was released today, on October 10, found widespread use of the restricted plastic products in five Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Guwahati, and Gwalior, especially in local stores and markets.
Select single-use plastics (SUPs) were prohibited on July 1 last year, however, it appears that a lot of that restriction has just been on paper, notes the study.
The new study indicated that all banned single-use plastics, except for plastic stirrers and plastic ice cream sticks, were in use in all the surveyed cities. Restrictive carry bags, which are less than 120 microns thick, were the most commonly available banned item, across cities, with 64 per cent of survey points still using them.
Despite the availability of viable alternatives, other products including thermocol decorations (74 per cent), balloons (60 per cent), and plastic stick earbuds (60 per cent) continued to be sold in all cities, the Toxics Link study found.
The lowest compliance percentage was recorded in Delhi (88 per cent), followed by Gwalior (84 per cent), Mumbai (71 per cent), and Guwahati (77 per cent). Although significant, Bengaluru had the least usage of single-use plastics among the surveyed cities (55 per cent of the surveyed points were still using banned products).
The continuing availability of single-use plastics in such high percentages of the surveyed points across all five cities, months after the ban, indicates serious concerns, notes the 88-page study report.
India implemented a statewide ban on specific single-use plastics beginning on July 1, 2022, in order to protect human health and fight environmental degradation. The impact of the prohibition in reducing the usage of SUPs, which are known for their low utility and great potential for littering, is thoroughly evaluated in this study. In an exhaustive survey completed throughout five cities in India from March to June 2023, over 700 survey points were analysed across 23 distinct types of locations. Local street food vendors, tiny restaurants, railway stations, wholesale markets, malls, and tourist attractions were included.
Though malls and metro stations show strong adherence to the ban, the study finds that shopping markets, weekly markets, and wholesale markets have major enforcement gaps.
Despite their controlled environments, plastic carry bags are also frequently used on railway platforms, bus depots, and tourist spots. Furthermore, despite the availability of viable alternatives, the continued presence of such products in the food business, including restaurants, food stalls, and street food vendors in all cities, raises serious concern about the effectiveness of the product ban.
“Single-use plastics are major contributors to the plastic pollution crisis, and the study results indicate huge gaps in the enforcement of the ban in India, especially in the informal economy. The open use and distribution of banned SUPs is shocking; it is also being openly sold on e-commerce sites,” said Priti Banthia Mahesh, Chief Programme Coordinator, of Toxics Link.
“Substitutes are available in the market but it is also crucial that a life cycle approach is taken to evaluate substitutes before their wide adoption,” she added.
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In Delhi, one of the surveyed cities, significant usage of banned Single-Use Plastic Products (SUPPs) has been noted during the study. In a shocking finding, the study reports that 100 per cent of the surveyed vegetable shops, and markets, including wholesale and weekly, sweet shops, bus depots, and chaat shops in Delhi are providing restricted plastic carry bags, indicating its widespread usage and possible littering.
Usage of plastic carry bags was very high in other points as well, including tourist spots and small restaurants. Disposable cups, straws, and plates, made of plastic, are available at 54 per cent, 45 per cent, and 43 per cent of the points respectively, indicating a high volume of use.
Thermocol for decorations, balloons, and earbuds with plastic sticks are available at almost all surveyed points in the city. The use of the banned products was seen in 100 per cent of the food stalls and chaat vendors, coconut water sellers, grocery shops, markets, and bhandaras. Interestingly, SUPPs were absent in malls and ice cream parlours.
“It is important to recognise that while progress has been made, there is still a substantial journey ahead in curbing the prevalence of single-use plastic products in our cities. The varying levels of compliance across different locations and product types highlight the complexity of this challenge,” said Satish Sinha, Associate Director at Toxics Link.
“Stakeholders must come togetherand build on the positive shifts observed while addressing the areas that require immediate intervention. Our goal is to cultivate a sustainable ecosystem that not only enriches our communities but also safeguards our planet,” he added.
To download the full study report, click here.