NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday urged people to stop using single-use plastic bags so that India could start phasing them out from October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
“I request citizens to see if we can make India single-use plastic free from October 2. Schools, colleges, municipalities, urban bodies, gram panchayats can collect single-use plastic bags from their areas and on October 2, we can take up the task of phasing out the use of single-use plastic bags in a big way,” he said in his Independence Day speech.
Modi urged technical experts and industrialists to invest in recycling single-use plastic, and shopkeepers to use cloth bags. “Plastic bags are being used to make highways. Today, I request shopkeepers to put up boards in shops, saying ‘don’t request plastic bags, get a cloth bag’. Or shopkeepers can give cloth bags to customers. Cloth bags can be given out as Diwali gifts too,” he said, adding that rising demand for jute and cloth bags could help raise farmers’ income.
Modi was conferred the “Champions of the Earth” award by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for pledging to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 and leading the International Solar Alliance in October last year.
The Union environment ministry is considering a uniform legislation to phase out four single-use plastic products — styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, disposable plastic cutlery and plastic carry bags. To begin with, the phasing-out process will be voluntary. Last year, the ministry had written to all states to draw up their own policies or guidelines for immediate phase-out of these products.
“The notification is still in draft stage. Twenty states have submitted strong draft notifications. For now, the phasing out will be voluntary but in the long run, it will require legal backing,” said CK Mishra, secretary, ministry of environment.
Single-use plastic meant for packaging will, however, not be covered by the proposed legislation, officials aware of developments said. Mishra said phasing out single-use plastic would be the theme of the Swachh Bharat campaign from October 2.
According to Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link, “Bags thinner than 50 microns are already banned, many states have banned plastic bag use altogether. Half of the single-use plastic is used in packaging. So, first is that we need to reduce packaging and stop use of non-recyclable plastic used in packaging. It’s unfair to ask municipalities to pick up the packaging left by industries. The recycling industry is in very bad shape, it needs to be scaled up and made bankable. But it’s good the PM has spoken about it. People who carry single-use plastic bags should feel ashamed. There should be awareness that it’s bad.”
Carry bags made of virgin or recycled plastic of less than fifty microns in thickness are prohibited under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
Aug 15, 2019 22:40 IST