When the Waste Blows

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India imposed a ban on single-use plastics over the weekend to combat worsening pollution in the world’s second-most populous nation, Al Jazeera reported.

The government announced that the ban will include a variety of items, such as straws, cutlery, packaging film and cigarette packets.

In the first stage, officials labeled 19 plastic products as wasteful without being very useful. Under the new ban, these items will become illegal to produce, import or sell.

Still, thousands of other plastic products – including plastic bottles – are not covered by the ban. Even so, officials are urging manufacturers to recycle or dispose of those items properly.

Meanwhile, a number of Indian regions have imposed such regulations with varying degrees of success.

While environmental groups welcomed the decision, many plastic manufacturers warned that the ban did not give them enough time to prepare for the restrictions. Producers also feared that the timing of the restriction comes during a period of high inflation that could lead to unemployment.

The government responded that the nationwide ban has been in the works for a year.

Even so, questions remain about how and even if the ban will be enforced in India, which uses about 14 million tons of plastic annually and lacks an organized waste management system.

Plastic garbage has reached epidemic proportions in the oceans, according to the United Nations, with an estimated 100 million tons deposited there. Microplastics have been discovered in enormous quantities in the intestines of deep-sea creatures such as whales.

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