The ban includes plastic straws, disposable cutlery, earplugs, candy and ice cream wrappers, and cigarette packs.
India has imposed a ban on single-use plastics for items ranging from straws to cigarette cases in a bid to combat mounting pollution in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people.
The ban on single-use plastic items includes straws, cutlery, earplugs, packaging films, plastic balloon sticks, candy and ice cream sticks, and cigarette cases, among others, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said in a statement on Friday.
For the first phase, the government has identified 19 plastic items it doesn’t think are very useful but have high potential to become litter, and the new ban makes them illegal to produce, import, store, etc distribute or sell.
Some single-use plastic bags will also be phased out and replaced with thicker ones to encourage reuse.
Plastics manufacturers had appealed to the government to delay the ban, citing inflation and potential job losses.
India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav said at a news conference in New Delhi on Friday that the ban had been in the works for a year.
“Now that time is up,” he said.
Plastic waste has become a major source of pollution in India, the world’s second most populous country, and rapid economic growth has fueled demand for goods that come with single-use plastic products like straws and single-use cutlery.
Thousands of other plastic products – such as plastic bottles – are not covered by the ban. But the federal government has set targets for manufacturers to be responsible for recycling or disposal after use.
This isn’t the first time India is considering a plastic ban. However, previous iterations have focused on specific regions of the country, leading to varying degrees of success.
Satyarupa Shekhar, Asia-Pacific coordinator for advocacy group Break Free from Plastic, said a nationwide ban that includes not only the use of plastic but also its production or import is a “significant boost.”
India, which uses about 14 million tons of plastic annually, lacks an organized system for managing plastic waste, leading to widespread littering.
Streets in India’s cities are littered with used plastic goods that eventually clog drains, rivers and oceans, and also kill animals.
Companies including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Co, India’s Parle Agro, Dabur and Amul had campaigned to exempt straws from the ban. In addition to food and consumer goods companies, plastics manufacturers have also complained about the ban, saying they have not been given enough time to prepare for the restriction.
Some experts felt the ban could be difficult to enforce.
Ravi Agarwal, the director of Toxics Link, a New Delhi-based advocacy group focused on waste management, said the ban was “a good start” but its success will depend on how well it is implemented.
The government has decided to set up control rooms to check the illegal use, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products. However, the actual enforcement of the law will be in the hands of the individual federal states and urban municipalities.
According to the United Nations, plastic waste in the world’s oceans has reached epidemic proportions, with an estimated 100 million tons being dumped there. Scientists have found large amounts of microplastics in the gut of deep-living marine mammals like whales.