Single Use Plastics


Despite a ban being in force, single use plastics, particularly polythene carry bags, are back in use widely in Chennai.

The State government banned the use of single-use plastics in 2019. While the enforcement was stringent initially, the monitoring seemed to have waned particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to their re-emergence. The banned plastics are commonly spotted mostly in small stores, eateries and among hawkers selling vegetables.

  • What is Single Use Plastic and Why is it Harmful?

Single-use plastics are disposable plastics meant for use-and-throw. These comprise polythene bags, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic sachets, plastic wrappers, straws, stirrers and Styrofoam cups or plates.

According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), plastic is harmful to the environment as it is non-biodegradable, takes years to disintegrate. Single-use plastics slowly and gradually break down into smaller pieces of plastic known as microplastics.

It can take thousands of years for plastic bags to decompose, thus contaminating our soil and water in the process. The noxious chemicals used to produce plastic gets transmitted to animal tissue, and finally, enter the human food chain, the WWF claims.

  • Plastics Impacts Wildlife also:

Birds usually confuse shreds of plastic bags for food and end up eating the toxic debris. Fish consume thousands of tons of plastic in a year, ultimately transferring it up the food chain to marine mammals.

WWF further claims that a person could be consuming 5 grams of plastic a week. Plastic kills an estimated 1 million sea birds every year and affects around 700 species which get infected by ingesting plastics. Worldwide, one to five trillion plastic bags are consumed annually.

  • Future Plans:

India Proposes Phase Out of Single-Use Plastic Items by 2022.

The new draft will replace the existing rules on plastic waste management which were notified in 2016 and amended in 2018. The 2021 draft rules have proposed to prohibit manufacture, import, stocking, distribution and sale of certain single-use plastics from January 1, 2022.