The United Nations celebrated World Environment Day on June 5, 2018, and this year India was the host country. In line with this year’s theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” India announced on the same day that it would eliminate all single-use plastics nationwide by 2022.
This is an unprecedented move against disposable plastics for the country with the fastest growing economy in the world. Through the ban, India’s 1.3 billion people and many businesses will drastically limit the flow of plastics going onto the market and ultimately ending up as waste or ocean plastics pollution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that India’s rapid economic development can be done in a sustainable way and is calling on “awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership” to beat plastic pollution.
Prime Minister Modi also committed to joining the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, which seeks to combat marine litter. Clean Seas launched in February 2017, and it is a five-year campaign to target the “production and consumption of non-recoverable and single-use plastic.” As part of their commitment to reduce litter that ends up on India’s 7,500 km of coastline, the government will also establish a national and regional marine litter action campaign and a program to measure India’s total marine plastic footprint.
India has also pledged to make 100 of its national monuments litter-free, and some of its states are beginning to take strict actions against plastic pollution as well. Maharashtra, for example, recently became the 18th Indian state to ban the use of certain plastic items and establish the responsibilities of producers and the governing body.
Dozens of companies in Maharashtra are already facing fines as the ban on many single-use plastic and polystyrene items came into effect on June 23, 2018. McDonald’s, for example, is struggling to find sustainable alternatives. It has begun using wooden cutlery and paper cups and straws, but the chain has yet to find a replacement for its plastic drink lids and other delivery items. As a result, many restaurant associations in the state are asking for exemptions for delivery and take-out orders.
Bans on single-use plastics in India have not been strictly enforced, but state and national governments are starting to crack down so that companies change their ways and plastic pollution can be eliminated at the source.