World Environment Day: How Can India Learn From Bangladesh to Deal With Plastic?

One of the first nations to outlaw light plastic bags was Bangladesh, which did so in 2002.

5 min read
Hindi Female

The importance of individual and communal activities required to tackle plastic waste will be highlighted on World Environment Day 2023, that is, 5 June. The time has arrived to step up these efforts and transition to a circular economy. The #BeatPlasticPollution campaign is critical because our reliance on single-use plastic goods harms the environment, society, economy, and health.

Surprisingly, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute worldwide, and five trillion plastic bags are used each year. Half of all plastic manufactured is intended for single-use, worsening the problem. Plastics, especially microplastics, are unmistakably present in our natural environment. Like many other countries, India has been dealing with a big plastic problem.

India is the world's 15th most significant producer of plastic garbage. According to a study from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India created around 9.46 million metric tonnes of plastic garbage in 2019. India's per capita plastic use is relatively low compared to wealthy countries.

However, because of its enormous population, the overall amount of plastic used is significant. In 2019, India's per capita plastic use was around 11 kilograms. According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, India's yearly per capita consumption will rise by 20 kgs in 2022.


India's Ban on Single-use Plastics

India's management of plastic garbage has several difficulties. Only 60% of the plastic garbage produced in the nation gets recycled, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) research, with the remaining 40% ending up in landfills, rivers, or the ocean. The Ganges and Indus rivers in India are among the top 10 rivers worldwide that contribute the most to plastic pollution in the ocean, according to a 2019 report by The Ocean Cleanup. These rivers discharge a considerable number of plastic debris into the ocean.

India has worked to combat single-use plastics, a major source of plastic pollution. Single-use plastics, including plastic bags, cups, plates etc were outlawed by the Indian government in various states and towns in 2019. Regional variations exist in how these restrictions are implemented and enforced.

India's plastic recycling business is expanding, but it still needs help. One of the biggest importers of waste plastic in the past was India.

To address environmental and public health issues, the nation enacted a ban on the import of plastic garbage in 2019. The nation’s capability for recycling is roughly 60%, with the remaining materials being burned or disposed of in landfills, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.


Bangladesh's Successful Plastic Ban: Lessons for India

Bangladesh, India's neighbour, has effectively enacted a comprehensive ban on plastic as India struggles to reduce its plastic usage. What can we infer from the situation in Bangladesh?

When it comes to enforcing a plastics ban, Bangladesh is, in fact, regarded as a success story. The nation has achieved tremendous progress in this area by taking substantial initiatives to prevent plastic pollution. The following significant details underline Bangladesh's effective implementation of the plastic ban.

One of the first nations to outlaw light plastic bags was Bangladesh, which did so in 2002. According to government law, plastic bags with a thickness of less than 50 microns are not permitted to be manufactured, imported, sold, or used. The prohibition on plastic was taken seriously by the Bangladeshi government.

Bangladesh started several protracted public awareness programmes to inform people of the negative consequences of plastic pollution and the necessity of eliminating plastic trash. To disseminate the message nationwide, these campaigns used various media, including television, radio, billboards, and social media. After considering alternatives, the Bangladeshi government supported making and utilising reusable, eco-friendly bags. Due to this, jute bags—a conventional material made of natural fibres—rose to popularity as a replacement for plastic bags.

The country aggressively engaged neighbourhood associations, non-governmental organisations, and environmental groups to push the plastic ban and implement trash management initiatives. This promoted trash reduction and recycling culture among the populace and helped them feel a feeling of ownership.

The prohibition of plastic in Bangladesh has had fruitful outcomes. It has considerably decreased the amount of plastic garbage generated throughout the nation, improving the environment by cleaning up the streets and waterways. The prohibition has also prompted other countries to implement such measures and acted as a template for the worldwide fight against plastic pollution.

While Bangladesh has achieved great strides, there are still obstacles to overcome, such as the need for ongoing public education and enforcement and the smuggling of plastic bags. However, the nation's initiatives and successes in putting the plastic ban into effect serve as a noteworthy example for other countries attempting to address the problem of plastic pollution.


Comprehensive Strategies to Combat India's Plastic Menace

Several steps may be implemented to reduce the plastic issue in India.

First, We must improve waste management infrastructure and methods to ensure effective plastic trash collection, segregation, and disposal. This entails boosting waste-to-energy initiatives, expanding recycling facilities, and enhancing the effectiveness of waste management procedures. In urban and rural regions where the lack of adequate waste management facilities contributes to the issue, the focus should be on upgrading the infrastructure for managing plastic trash and promoting awareness campaigns.

Second, maintaining current single-use plastics restrictions and broadening their application to cover more plastic goods. India shall penalise anyone who violates the rules governing the manufacture, sale, and use of prohibited plastic products. India must also support research and innovation in managing plastic waste, including creating sophisticated recycling technologies, bioplastics, and substitute packaging materials. We must support startups and programmes to reduce plastic pollution with sustainable solutions.

Third, we must promote the adoption of environmentally responsible and sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics. Encourage people to use reusable containers, bottles, and bags. Encourage the study and creation of novel, recyclable or biodegradable packaging materials. To do this, we must launch extensive public awareness programmes to inform people about the harm that plastic waste causes to the ecosystem. This will encourage people to adopt eco-friendly behaviours and limit their usage of single-use plastics, which will change their behaviour.

Fourth, the Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle, which implements and enforces EPR legislation, must be used in India. Producing companies will thus be held accountable for managing the whole lifespan of their goods, including the collection, recycling, and proper disposal of any plastic waste that results from their products. This motivates producers to use more recyclable and environmentally friendly packaging materials.

Fifth, India already has a sizable infrastructure for recycling, but it is in the unorganised sector and has to be controlled. Infrastructure, technology, and facilities for recycling plastic must be developed and expanded. The expansion of the recycling sector will be aided by providing financial aid and other incentives for recycling companies. We may work with international groups, governments, and stakeholders during this process to exchange best practices, research, and technological advancements for managing plastic trash.

(Dr Anjal Prakash is the Associate Professor (Research) and Research Director at the Bharti Institute of Public Policy at the Indian School of Business. He contributes to IPCC reports. The views expressed above are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and environment

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More