The Indian government has pledged to ban all single-use plastics by 2022, in a move which has been welcomed by both the United Nations and grassroots groups. The UN environment agency described the policy as “unprecedented”. It was announced during a World Environment Day summit hosted by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. In some countries – India among them – rules exist but are not always enforced. In others, pledges have been criticised for not going far enough.
Harsh Vardhan, the Indian environment minister, used the summit in New Delhi to announce “on a personal front” that he would give up single-use plastic in his own daily life. India’s 1.3 billion population currently produces 25,000 metric tons of plastic per day. The government claims that around 60 per cent of that is recycled, but civil society groups put the figure closer to 40 per cent, reports www.independent.co.uk. Why it is a problem? Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
These items are things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging. We produce roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable, explains www.plasticfreechallenge.org. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form, then they are mined and manufactured into single-use plastic items, and shipped to where they are needed (each stage bringing its own environmental impacts) simply to be used for a couple of minutes before being discarded.
We cannot escape the consequences of throwing away vast quantities of a material that takes hundreds of years to break down. Our planet is not as large as we think it is. We now share it with 7 billion people, the majority of whom are producing plastic waste at an alarming rate.
We need to choose more sustainable alternatives to ‘disposable’ plastic, advocates lessplastic.co.uk. It goes on to list 9 reasons to refuse single use plastic: Made from fossil fuels; Huge carbon footprint; Will still be here in hundreds of years; Only a tiny percentage is recycled; Leaches toxins into food and drink; Causes hormone disruption and cancers; Pollutes our oceans; Kills marine animals and birds; and, Enters our food chain.