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Editorial

Single-Use Plastic: Ban Can Wait The cause calls for a systematic plan

September 19, 2019 06:11 AM

COURTESY ET EDIT SEPT 19

Single-Use Plastic: Ban Can Wait
The cause calls for a systematic plan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2018 World Environment Day pledge to rid India of single-use plastic was a bold move. India subsequently pushed for a global resolution under the aegis of the United Nations to commit all countries phase out single-use plastic by 2030. However, good intentions have a well-recognised way of ending up paving the path to hell. The reported advisory by the Centre to the states to ban production of certain kinds of articles of single-use plastic, before October 2, the deadline set by the prime minister for citizens to give up singleuse plastic, represents the wrong way to go about the job. It will make a bad economic situation marginally worse and, perhaps, even create a black market in certain plastic articles.

By and large, the alternative materials to replace single-use plastic are either not in place or not available at scale. Just banning things without a viable alternative will create a mess. Single-use plastic refers to the entire class of items that are used once and then disposed of. These span a gamut of utility and their elimination calls for a strong policy backup. The policy roadmap must focus on several key deliverables such as utility value, availability of alternatives, life-cycle costs and resource efficiency. What are the environmental and balance-of-payments costs and benefits of replacing all plastic cutlery with those made of wood? How will elimination of plastic carry-bags affect the incomes of roadside vendors and small traders? What are the life-cycle costs of available alternatives?


Phasing out single-use plastic calls for innovation of materials, business models and policy — policy of the thoughtful, rather than knee-jerk, kind. India is capable of doing wonders in recycling, with the right blend of policy and organised action. So, use October 2 as the day on which a campaign begins for citizens to voluntarily shun single-use plastic as much as they individually can. Let the NITI Aayog come up with an action plan, hold consultations, involve civil society and create popular buy-in. The bans can come after that

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