Plastics ban calls for deliberation, not draconian measures

While a plastic-free society may sound good, issues like lack of alternatives to banned products and potential threats to livelihoods of millions need to be factored in while framing policies

By Ankit Goyal, Richa Agarwal, Subhojit Goswami
Published: Friday 20 April 2018

The world, today, is not only worried about the problem of plastic pollution on land and water but also about its most minuscule form: microplastics. Plastics are a global problem, but developing nations do not only have to deal with plastics manufactured in their countries but also the plastic waste that is being dumped on them by the developed nations. A global instance of plastic nuisance first came to light in 2015 when plastic bags caused death of 150 people as they clogged the waterways, resulting in flooding in Accra, Ghana. Many nations have tried to enforce a ban on plastics in the past two decades but with little success. African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia, Botswana, Eritrea, Mauritania, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda had banned plastics in the past. Recently, Bangladesh and Vietnam have joined the crusade from Asia.

In Zanzibar islands, off the Tanzania coast, anyone violating the ban risks a jail sentence of up to six months or a fine of US$2,000 or both. It is estimated that more than 200 tonnes of plastic bags pass through Zanzibar's port every month destined for local and regional markets. Also, Tunisia in Northern Africa banned use of plastics in 2017. Though the enforcement was delayed, the authorities are trying hard with the support of the non-government organisations to make this ban a success. Rwanda has been able to execute this ban for quite a few years and with significant success. Kenya, in its third attempt, is pushing hard to implement the ban this year. While some countries have moved a step ahead by realising the need for such extreme policies, what remains is the strong enforcement of these bans.

As many as 25 states in India have banned different types of plastics over the last two decades, but implementation of the ban has been bleak. The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 had banned the use of carry bags below 50 micron, while directing a phase out for all multilayered packaging in two years. But the latest revision in the rules, remove the blanket ban.

Recently, Maharashtra notified a blanket ban on manufacturing and usage of certain types of plastics. Only a month was given for enforcing the ban, but interestingly, the ban in Kenya was planned over six months. Since, plastics have become part of our everyday life, banning commodities made of it is a herculean task. Therefore, a transition and active propagation for the same is required.

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