INDIA- India has moved a stride further in promoting either a partial or complete ban on single-use plastics but the movement is derailed by lack of a proper enforcement strategy, violations of the law governing the ban and criticism from beverage firms, plastic industry organisations and other lobbyists.

Some of the industry players have called on the government to soften on the rules while they look for alternatives.

According to Reuters, firms including Amazon, H&M, Pepsi and Coca-Cola met state officials to urge the government to implement the regulations in stages and to relax certain rules.

Exemptions and ‘compromises’

The environment Department later came out with a notification that e-commerce companies were granted a three-month amnesty, allowing them to use plastic packaging for that period of time as they work on environmentally friendly options.

These exemptions together with compromises are what are derailing proper implementation strategy.

The government has backtracked and permitted the use of PET bottles, provided that they are converted to pellets for recycling, carry barcodes to identify the bottlers and work with NGOs and ‘ragpickers’ to ensure that the pellets are recycled.

According to First Post, the state is also expected to allow retailers to pack groceries in pouches made of plastic over 50 microns, with conditions such as bearing the source and setting up collection and recycling mechanisms.

Other exemptions include plastic and thermocol used by manufacturing companies, plastic bags used for storing grain, and milk pouches above 50 microns in thickness.

A ‘costly’ ban

Maharashtra was the latest state to enforce the single-use plastic ban effective June 23.

Along with other states, it started enforcing the ban and out of the 29 states and seven union territories of India, 25 now have either a partial or complete ban on plastics.

The Maharashtra ban covers the manufacturing, usage, distribution, wholesale and retail sale, and import of plastic bags, especially single-use polyethylene (PE) bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns.

Violators of the ban are to be fined US$72.87 and US$145.74 for the first and second-time offense, then US$364.30 plus three years’ imprisonment for the third-time offender.

According to All India Plastics Manufacturers Association (AIPMA), a total of 2,150 ‘Plastic Industrial Units’ have been closed due to the ban, which has resulted in large-scale unemployment throughout the state.

The plastic industry has proved unable to implement the ban despite efforts from AIPMA and the Plastic Manufacturers Association to find a lasting solution.

AIPMA, along with other associations, had initiated the ‘Mobile Plastic Waste Bank’, in which plastic waste can be deposited. The collection bins were placed at railway stations, bus depots, markets, temples and other public places.

It also supplied and installed various PET bottle crushing machines at various locations across Maharashtra.