Menace of Plastic consumption
GS 3 Conservation Environmental Pollution & Degradation
- A new study warns that plastic consumption in G20 countries could double by 2050 if no new policies are implemented.
Plastic Consumption across Globe
- According to a report by the Back to Blue initiative, plastic consumption in G20 nations could nearly double by 2050 if new global policies to reduce its use are not implemented.
- In the coming decades, countries with the highest economic and population growth are likely to experience the greatest increase in plastic consumption.
- Plastic consumption is expected to nearly double by 2050, from 261 million tonnes in 2019 to 451 million tonnes in 2050, a growth rate of 110 percent.
- A ban on plastics with a single use is the most effective policy, but even with the ban, plastic consumption in G20 nations will be 1.48 times higher in 2050 than in 2019
- Extended producer responsibility schemes will have a negligible impact on the consumption of single-use plastic products, but they remain an essential component of the solution.
- The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibit the manufacture, import, stockpiling, distribution, sale, and use of carry bags and plastic sheets with a thickness of less than 50 microns in the country.
Issues / Challenges with Plastic
- Environmental: It is detrimental to the environment due to the fact that it is non-biodegradable and takes years to decompose.
- Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fishes and turtles eat plastic waste and most die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris.
- Food and health: Invisible plastic has been found in tap water, beer, and salt, as well as in all ocean samples collected throughout the world, including the Arctic.
- o The transfer of contaminants from marine organisms to humans via the consumption of seafood has been identified as a health risk.
- Each year, fish consume thousands of tonnes of plastic, which they then pass up the food chain to marine mammals.
- Climate change: Plastic, a product derived from petroleum, also contributes to global warming. When plastic waste is burned, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, thereby increasing carbon emissions.
- Tourism: Plastic waste damages the aesthetic value of tourist destinations, leading to decreased tourism-related incomes and major economic costs related to the cleaning and maintenance of the sites.
- Financial costs of marine plastic pollution: According to conservative forecasts made in March 2020, the direct harm to the blue economy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be $2.1 billion per year.
Challenges in controlling plastic pollution:
- Weak enforcement of regulations: While India has enacted legislation to combat plastic pollution, enforcement remains weak due to limited resources and insufficient monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
- Lack of public awareness: There is a need for more widespread public education campaigns to promote plastic alternatives and proper waste disposal practices.
- Limited infrastructure: There are insufficient waste collection and separation systems, and many landfills are mismanaged and overflowing.
- Recycling challenges: While India has a vibrant informal recycling sector, there are challenges with the quality and safety of recycled plastics, as well as a lack of standardized recycling processes and technologies.
- Single-use plastic production: Straws, cutlery, and bags, which are difficult to recycle and frequently end up in landfills or waterways, are among the many single-use plastic items still manufactured in India.
Steps taken by India to control plastic pollution
- Ban on single-use plastics: In a number of its states, India has prohibited the production, use, and sale of single-use plastics such as bags, cups, plates, cutlery, and straws.
- Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): The Indian government has implemented EPR, making plastic manufacturers accountable for waste management and disposal.
- Plastic Waste Management Rules: In 2016, India enacted the Plastic Waste Management Rules, which provide a framework for managing plastic waste through a variety of measures, such as recycling and waste-to-energy initiatives.
- Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: The Indian government launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a national cleanliness campaign, which includes the collection and disposal of plastic waste.
- Plastic Parks: India has set up Plastic Parks, which are specialized industrial zones for recycling and processing plastic waste.
- Beach clean-up drives: The Indian government and various non-governmental organizations have organized beach clean-up drives to collect and dispose of plastic waste from beaches.
- Awareness campaigns: India has launched awareness campaigns to educate people about the harmful effects of plastic pollution and encourage them to use sustainable alternatives.
- The report on plastic pollution in G20 nations should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, industries, and individuals to take concrete steps to reduce plastic consumption and pollution.
- Without significant policy changes, the plastic consumption of the G20 nations could double by 2050, resulting in severe environmental and health consequences.
- It is encouraging that some G20 nations are taking steps to reduce single-use plastics, but bolder and more ambitious policies are required to significantly reduce plastic pollution.
- All stakeholders, including petrochemical companies and consumers, must control the crisis by enacting radical and far-reaching reforms to alter the plastic consumption curve.
Daily Mains Question
Examine the implications of the rise in Plastic pollution and suggest the possible reforms needed to bend the plastic consumption curve.