Hot Topics : Plastic Pollution: A Chemical Conundrum (GS-1 Mains or GS-3 Mains)

Question : How can the global issue of plastic pollution, as highlighted by a recent European report revealing the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals in plastic materials, be addressed effectively?

  • A recent European report finds 16,000 chemicals in plastic materials globally, with a quarter potentially hazardous.

Health and Environmental Impacts

  • Plastic chemicals can leach into food and water, posing health risks.
  • Solving plastic pollution requires addressing the full life cycle of plastics, including the chemicals used.

Recycling and Reuse Limitations

  • The plastics industry promotes recycling and reuse, but these alone are insufficient.
  • Greater transparency is needed on the chemicals used in plastics, including recycled products.
  • The chemical complexity of plastics and lack of regulations hinder responsible management.

Plastic Pollution in India

  • Plastic waste generation has surged from 15.9 lakh TPA (2015-16) to 41.2 lakh TPA (2020-21).
  • Inadequate waste management infrastructure leaves half of plastic waste uncollected, polluting land and water.
  • Data gaps and inefficiencies in the recycling system further complicate the issue.

Measures Required

  • Reliable assessment of plastic waste generation is essential for effective management.
  • Mandatory online reporting of plastic waste data is needed.
  • A comprehensive policy is required to address plastic pollution.
  • Research and development for cost-effective alternatives to plastic are crucial.
  • Public awareness about eco-friendly alternatives and the dangers of single-use plastics is vital.

Indian Government Initiatives

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016: Bans certain single-use plastic items.
  • Ban on SUP (July 1, 2022): Prohibits specific hard-to-recycle single-use plastic items.
  • Prohibition on thin plastic carry bags (December 31, 2022): Bans bags less than 120 microns thick.
  • National Policy on Solid Waste Management, 2016: Promotes waste minimization, segregation, and processing.
  • EPR Rules: Establish producer responsibility for plastic waste collection and recycling.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Promotes waste segregation and processing, indirectly impacting plastic waste.
  • Indian Swachhata League: Encourages youth participation in clean-up activities.

The Way Forward

  • A multi-pronged approach involving government, industry, civil society, and individuals is necessary.
  • Effective implementation of existing regulations, technological advancements, and a shift towards a circular economy are key to tackling plastic pollution.


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