This year, Gandhi's birthday will be marked by a national crackdown on six specific plastic items.
A year ago, the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, pledged that his country would eliminate all single-use plastics by 2022. Now, he has announced the first step to making that happen – a ban on six specific items that will take effect on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. These items are plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws and certain types of sachets.
In a speech delivered on India's Independence Day, August 15, PM Modi asked citizens to take the issue seriously and to help municipal authorities by cleaning up single-use plastic whenever they see it at home or on the road. He went on:
"Let's make India free of single-use plastic, shall we? I urge the start-up founders, technicians and industrialists to find ways to recycle plastic. Single-use plastic is the root cause of many of our problems – but the solution has to come from within, from us."
This initial phase of the ban is expected to reduce India's annual plastic trash output by up to 10 percent, totalling 14 million tonnes of plastic. In a country that discards 70 percent of its plastic and does not process waste in most cities, this action – if implemented thoroughly and well – could add up to some real change. Clearly something has to happen. CNN reported, "One famous trash mountain in the east of New Delhi, known as Ghazipur, is reportedly just months away from rising higher than the Taj Mahal, which stands at 73 meters (240 feet) tall."
There will be a six-month grace period after the October 2 launch to allow people to adopt alternatives. Modi has said the country will pursue other plastic-reduction tactics, including tougher environmental standards (i.e. ensuring everything is recyclable) and asking e-commerce companies, such as Amazon, to minimize the plastic used to package purchase goods. Eco Watch cites a government official who said that e-commerce-related packaging accounts for nearly 40 percent of India's annual plastic consumption.
It's good to see India taking a concrete step toward plastic reduction, but with its population of 1.3 billion, implementation will be a challenge.