• An ambitious resolution piloted by India to phase out single-use plastics by 2025, was watered down at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). (Nairobi)
  • At the World Environment Day summit on June 5, 2018 Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan had pledged to eliminate single-use plastics from India by 2022.
  • This was lauded by then UN Environment Chief, Erik Solheim.
  • This pushed several States — notably Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh — to enforce previous commitments to ban plastic bags and similar disposables.
  • Ahead of the UNEA, the UN secretariat had invited inputs from member states to forge a common declaration regarding addressing a host of environmental challenges.
  • However, the final declaration on March 15 removed the firm timelines and edited out the “decisively” and only committed to a “reduction by 2030.”
  • We will address the damage to our ecosystems caused by the unsustainable use and disposal of plastic products, including by significantly reducing single-use plastic products by 2030, and we will work with the private sector to find affordable and environment friendly alternative.
  • The UNEA, however, lauded India for playing a key role in advocating a time-bound ban on single use plastic.
  • Along with plastic, India also piloted a resolution on curbing nitrogen pollution.
  • The global nitrogen-use efficiency is low, resulting in pollution by reactive nitrogen which threatens human health, ecosystem services, contributes to climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion.
  • Only a small proportion of the plastics produced globally are recycled, with most of it damaging the environment and aquatic biodiversity.
  • Both these are global challenges and the resolutions piloted by India at the UNEA are vital first steps towards addressing these issues and attracting focus of the global community
  • India’s commitment to phase out plastic would continue irrespective of the global resolution.
  • “It’s a significant step that such a resolution was accepted at the UN.
  • Timelines per se are matters of further negotiation and debate.
  • A Central Pollution Control Board estimate in 2015 says that Indian cities generate 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste daily and about 70% of the plastic produced in the country ends up as waste
  • Seventeen States have plastic bans, on paper.
  • Experts have rued the inadequacy of collection and recycling systems to address the burgeoning plastic waste problem.