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UN meet dilutes Indian plan to phase out single-use plastics

Tue 19 Mar, 2019

Why in News?

An ambitious resolution piloted by India to phase out single-use plastics by 2025, was watered down at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) that concluded recently in Nairobi.

Deadline pushed back

  • The final declaration on March 15 removed the firm timelines and edited out the “decisively” and only committed to a “reduction by 2030.”
  • At the World Environment Day summit on June 5, 2018 India had pledged to eliminate single-use plastics from India by 2022.
  • 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.

What concerns India?

  • A CPCB 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.

Reasons cited

  • The UNEA lauded India for playing a key role in advocating a time-bound ban on single-use plastic.
  • A person privy to negotiations told that India didn’t work enough to garner international support to carry it all the way through.

Curbing Nitrogen pollution

  • 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.