India imposes ban on single-use plastics. But will it be enforced?


India on Friday became the latest country to impose a ban on most single-use plastics, part of a growing but patchy global effort to tackle a leading source of pollution. The challenges of enforcement are enormous, experts say, but so are the potential gains.

Only a small fraction of the plastic produced globally is recycled. Most is single-use, or disposable. It often winds up in landfills, rivers and oceans, or is burned, a significant contributor to air pollution in developing nations. Though these plastics are used only briefly, they can take hundreds of years to decompose. By 2050, there will be about 12 billion tons of plastic waste in the world, the United Nations estimates.

Plastic debris is ubiquitous in India: stacked along roadsides, floating in waterways and choking drainage systems. The country is the world’s third-largest producer of plastic waste, trailing only the United States and China, according to a recent report from Australia’s Minderoo Foundation.

India announced its ambitious initiative last year. Now, the manufacture, sale or import of widely used items such as plastic cutlery, ice cream sticks, and film on cigarette packs and candy boxes are banned. Plastic bags, another major pollutant, are not on the list for now, but the government has mandated an increase in thickness to make them easier to reuse. Some plastic packaging used for consumer food products will be excluded from the ban, but manufacturers are tasked with ensuring that it is recycled.

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The Washington Post, 1-07-22