Good news for Earth!
India has started the New Year in a positive, environmental direction by banning all disposable plastics in its capital city Delhi. This ban was proposed and passed in December 2016, but only came into effect on Jan 1st 2017. The government and authorities allowed a transition period giving businesses and residents time to adapt and prepare for the change, but now the plastics ban is being implemented city wide with fines from $150 – $7,000 for plastic usage or improper disposal.
This city wide ban on plastic cutlery, bags, cups, and all forms of single-use disposable plastics was advocated by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to combat the amount of plastic pollution in India, and the global environment. Plastic does not biodegrade, and it is possible that every piece of plastic ever made is still somewhere on our planet today. 500 billion plastic bags are made and used every year, mostly at convenience for around 20 minutes before they are disposed of improperly; that’s 1 million plastic bags produced every minute. Disposable plastics are a global issue that is seriously effecting our environment.
8.8 million tons of plastic are known to enter our oceans every year, and some estimates reach 12 million tons. Ocean plastics kill marine life through ingestion or entanglement and have been found in 31 marine mammal species and are known to kill 100,000 marine creatures every year through entanglement alone. Ingestion creates a bio-accumulation of harmful chemicals that increase up the food chain poisoning all creatures in the ocean; including humans who eat poisoned sea food.
Delhi’s ban is a shining example of a government’s true commitment to the protection of the environment. India is also focusing on increasing their renewable energy production and plans to be 60% renewable energy efficient by 2025. Other major cities, and even countries, have also been implementing bans on disposable plastics. Queensland, Australia; San Francisco, USA; and France have all committed to ban disposable plastics in one form or another with realistic plans and goals for a more sustainable future.
Now although banning plastic production and distribution is a great step towards a cleaner and safer environment, it’s not perfect solution and many cities and countries are finding it hard to enforce. Fresh food stalls are concerned that business will be affected if they cannot offer customers plastic bags. Fast food vendors are concerned how their customers will hold or eat their food without plastic crockery and cutlery. Many find it difficult to see past the social norms of disposable plastics that have developed in India, and widespread South East Asia, however there are many alternatives available.
Biodegradable plastics are currently being produced from natural products that will break down in waste bins and landfills, reducing overall waste. Edible plastics are also being produced which are safe for humans or animals to ingest and digest. Of course the best way to reduce plastic production is to reduce the single use product mentality and begin to reuse sustainable products like metal cutlery, china plates, and glass bottles.
Even if banning plastics isn’t as simple to implement and enforce as we would like it to be, Delhi’s ban is a hugely significant move in the right direction and stands as a towering example to other governments on responsible environmental protection. We hope that many other cities, countries and cultures will follow in their footsteps.