India bans single-use plastic to fight pollution

India on Friday imposed a ban on single-use plastics on items ranging from straws to cigarette packs to tackle worsening pollution in a country whose streets are littered with trash.

In announcing the ban, the government rejected requests from food, drink and consumer goods companies to suspend the restriction to avoid disruption.

Plastic waste has become a major source of pollution in India, the second most populous country in the world.

Rapid economic growth has fueled demand for goods that come with single-use plastic products, such as straws and disposable cutlery.

But India, which uses around 14 million tons of plastic a year, lacks an organized system for managing plastic waste, leading to widespread waste.

City streets are littered with used plastic products that end up choking sewers, rivers and oceans and also killing animals.

India’s ban on single-use plastic items includes straws, cutlery, headphones, wrappers, plastic sticks for balloons, candy and ice cream and cigarette packs, among other products, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said in a statement.

PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Parle Agro in India, Dabur and Amul had been pushing for the straws to be exempted from the ban.

To relieve consumers, the government has for the moment exempted plastic bags but has asked manufacturers and importers to increase the thickness to promote reuse.

Along with food and drink and consumer goods companies, plastic manufacturers have also complained about the ban which they say has not given them enough time to prepare for the restriction.

Some experts say enforcing the ban could be difficult. The government has decided to set up control rooms to check any illegal use, sale and distribution of single-use plastic products.

According to the United Nations, plastic waste is reaching epidemic proportions in the world’s oceans, with an estimated 100 million tonnes dumped there. Scientists have found large amounts of microplastic in the guts of deep-dwelling ocean mammals like whales.

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