India set to outlaw some single-use plastics, say sources

Ban on six single-use items will clip up to 10 percent from India's annual consumption of plastics, say officials.

    Officials tell Reuters that India's government will ask e-commerce companies to cut back on plastic packaging that makes up nearly 40 percent of the country's annual plastic consumption [File: Adnan Abidi/Reuters]
    Officials tell Reuters that India's government will ask e-commerce companies to cut back on plastic packaging that makes up nearly 40 percent of the country's annual plastic consumption [File: Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

    India is set to impose a nationwide ban on plastic bags, cups and straws, in its most sweeping measure yet to stamp out single-use plastics from cities and villages that rank among the world's most polluted, officials have said.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is leading efforts to scrap such plastics by 2022, is set to launch the campaign with a ban on as many as six items starting October 2 - the birth anniversary of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, two officials told Reuters news agency.

    Items to be prohibited include plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws and certain types of sachets, said the officials, who asked not to be identified, in line with government policy.

    "The ban will be comprehensive and will cover manufacturing, usage and import of such items," one official said.

    India's environment and housing ministries, the two main ministries leading the drive, did not respond to emails from Reuters seeking comment. 

    In an Independence Day speech on August 15, Modi had urged people and government agencies to "take the first big step" on October 2 towards freeing India of single-use plastics.

    Concerns are growing worldwide about plastic pollution, with a particular focus on the oceans, where nearly 50 percent of single-use plastic products end up, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, studies show.

    The European Union plans to ban single-use plastic items such as straws, forks, knives and cotton buds by 2021.

    China's commercial hub of Shanghai is gradually reining in the use of single-use plastics in catering, and the Chinese island province of Hainan has already vowed to completely eliminate single-use plastics by 2025.

    India lacks an organised system for management of plastic waste, leading to widespread littering across its towns and cities.

    The ban on the first six items of single-use plastics will clip five to 10 percent from India's annual consumption, now totalling about 14 million tonnes of plastic, the first official said.

    Penalties for violating the ban will probably take effect after an initial six-month period to allow people time to adopt alternatives, officials said.

    Some Indian states have already outlawed polythene bags.

    The federal government also plans tougher environmental standards for plastic products, and will insist on the use of recyclable plastic only, the first source said.

    It will also ask e-commerce companies to cut back on plastic packaging that makes up nearly 40 percent of India's annual plastic consumption, officials say.

    Cheap smartphones and a surge in the number of internet users have boosted orders for e-commerce companies, such as Amazon.com Inc and Walmart Inc's Flipkart. Such companies wrap their wares - from books and medicines to cigarettes and cosmetics - in plastic, pushing up consumption.  

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency