India's ban on single use plastic - A step ahead or a gimmick?

The single use plastic ban began on July 1.

Credit : Shubham Patil

Anushka Vani | Central Government has announced the implementation of phase two of the Plastic Waste Management Amendment (PWMA), 2021 as part of its Azadi ka Mahotsava (celebration of 75 years of independence). This amendment implies the ban of the Single Use Plastic (SUP) products, in other words, the use-and-throw plastic items by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The implementation of phase two began from Friday, July 1.

The ban will be observed throughout the country, under which India will ban manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified SUP items that have low utility and high littering potential. As per the notification circulated by the MoEFCC this phase of the ban would include the restriction on the use of earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice- cream sticks, polystyrene (Thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packaging films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.



States have prepared themselves to carry out the implementation of the ban. Maharashtra already had a total ban on single use plastic in place, that it had imposed in March 2018. It will continue the ban on plastic, this includes the ban on carry bags with or bags without a handle, even though the Centre has made provisions that allow the use of bags with a thickness above 75 microns. In addition to this, the state will also ban all SUP products and materials. The task force Chief of Maharashtra has directed all municipal officials to take various measures at the municipal level to create awareness among the people regarding the ban. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) circulated a notice that asserts the prohibition of the use of plastic products, but awareness seems to be lacking among the citizens about the same.

Other states such as Andhra Pradesh, have been carrying out rallies, setting up hoardings, distributing flyers and putting up advertisements in cinema halls. The Andhra Pradesh government has established 805 task force teams to enforce the ban, while about 158 metric tonnes of plastic bags measuring less than 75 microns have been seized. In addition to this, the state will impose a fine of rupees 154 lakhs to anyone who is found violating the ban practices.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has taken up various awareness programmes over the past six months. According to the KSPCB’s senior environmental officer, the state has written and communicated about the ban to all the stakeholders, while various committees were also constituted, apart from this promotional materials were also prepared. The Delhi Environment Department has started a campaign from July 1. This campaign would ensure compliance with the ban in the national capital. Apart from this, the capital is also going to close down all manufacturers, suppliers, stockiest, dealers and sellers who are caught violating the ban practices.


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The ban has been announced in order to curb the pollution caused by the littered unmanaged waste across the country and will be implemented in various phases in order to give manufacturers time to shift to thicker polythene carry bags which are easier to recycle. As per the ministry officials, the choice for this set of SUP ban is based on the “difficulty of collection, and therefore recycling”.

According to the circular, the MoEFCC notified the guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) on plastic packaging as PWMA 2022, on February 16, 2022. These guidelines include the framework to strengthen the circular economy of plastic packaging waste that would promote the development of new alternatives to plastic packaging and provide the next steps for moving towards the boost in sustainable plastic packaging by all businesses.  

In order to monitor the effective enforcement of the ban, the national and state-level control rooms have been set up and special enforcement teams will be checking for illegal manufacturing, imports, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the banned SUP. The monitoring will be controlled by the CPCB and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) who are going to report to the Centre directly. There are also directions provided to the SPCB and the Pollution Control Committees to modify orders to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries that are engaged in SUP items. 

Additionally, the States and Union Territories (UTs) will set up border checkpoints to stop the interstate movement of any banned single use plastic items. Anyone who is caught breaching the ban practices will be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986, that allows for imprisonment up to five years, or a penalty pay upto rupees one lakh, or both. Moreover, any violators of the ban could also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensation levied by the SPCB.

The Plastic Waste Management (PWA) rules, 2016 have imposed a complete ban on sachets using plastic material used for storing, packaging or selling ghutka (Chewing Tobacco) and pan masala. This witnessed challenges that made the implementation of the ban nearly impossible due to the shortcomings in the draft that failed to provide alternatives to the SUP items. As per the PWA rules 2021, banned carry bags manufactured with virgin or recycled plastic with less than seventy-five microns from September 2021. In a recent circular by the MoEFCC, it said that the CPCB has issued one-time certificates to around 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic. These certificates do not require renewal which is in line with the ease-of-doing business policy of the government.     

In addition to this, the country will witness the ban on carry bags having a thickness less than 120 microns with effect from December 31, 2022.



Previously, in 2018 when the ban was first imposed in several states including Maharashtra, the move was not that successful as it had to face various challenges. Firstly, enforcing the ban was a big task for the authorities. As the media attention to the ban faded, it got trickier to keep a track of the implementation, with limited resources the difficulty was simply enhanced. The ban had impacted the poor producers and vendors since they had to cope up with the inflation, along with the hiked prices for raw materials. According to the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association (AIPMA), the Indian plastic industry is worth Rs 5,000 crore and about 2,150 Plastic Industrial Units were shut down due to the ban. Another part of the problem with the enforcement of the ban was setting up operation teams that would coordinate the waste management systems. Most of the states have not established an organised system for plastic waste management. Unlike the last time, this time, the Central Government has made it clear that the deadline for implementing the SUP ban will not be extended.

As per the Central Government’s notifications state that the deadline for SUP ban will not be extended, the manufacturers of small packaged fruit juices and dairy products want the government to extend the implementation till they manage a proper infrastructure for producing paper straws which would be locally developed, as importing straws is not an economical option for them.