India is in a dangerous position in terms of plastic waste and pollution. The concerning picture of India's plastic waste is that India produces 9.46 million tons of plastic waste every year and a majority of those are for single-use. Around 40% of these remain uncollected and stay in the natural environment. The Indus river alone carries around 1,64,332 tons of plastic waste which ends up in the ocean.
In this regard, India came up with a national initiative that has a global impact and interest, named the 'Plastic Pact' initiative. World Wide Fund for Nature -India (WWF India) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) joined together and developed this initiative to fight against plastic waste in a remarkable method.
The 'Plastic Pact' initiative is directed at the circular economy for plastic manufacturing. Circular Economy refers to a "closed-loop" system in which the production of plastics is simultaneous with recycling and reusing of plastics. This whole system is aimed at protecting the environment from plastic waste. This initiative is remarkable in the regard that other government projects and public awareness campaigns, businesses, and enterprises are collaboratively invited to deliver this pact.
The main reason for hysterical plastic pollution is that it is single-used or disposable. Until now, all efforts have been focused only on improving waste management and reducing the use of plastic. Greener alternatives are already in the market but their infrastructure development processes are expensive. Developing a whole new industry contrary to plastic is not going to happen immediately. Besides, all these efforts have shown minimal progress and failed to improve marine life. The 2016 Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s report 'The New Plastics Economy' showed that by 2050 oceans could contain more plastics than fish. Sadly this scenario has not improved till now even after numerous global actions have been taken against plastic pollution.
The 'Plastic Pact Initiative' which has already been adopted in many countries is directed towards creating an environment free of problematic plastics and a circular economy for plastic production.
Problematic Plastics refer to single-used plastics. WRAP, a British registered charity that supervises The UK Plastics Pact, has set a list of eight 'problematic or unnecessary' plastics. All the pact members are required to remove those plastics additional to another second list of nineteen plastics by 2025. Disposable plastic bowls, plates, cutlery, PVC packaging, cotton buds with plastic stems, etc are included in that list of eight plastics that are required to be eliminated. WRAP has also set some measurements to deal with problematic plastics which are directed to avoid plastic where a greener alternative is available, avoid single used plastic where recycling is not possible, avoid plastics in those sectors where the chance of littering is high.
The circular economy of plastic is a comprehensive approach in which plastic is released in the market and then reused in a loop. The waste is never exposed to the environment. This approach is considered a robust strategy and is beneficial to the economy and climate crisis. To ensure all plastics are reusable and compostable, engagement is required from businesses, international institutions, governments, non-governmental organizations, innovators across the world. Key objectives of a circular economy are designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating a realistic system that will have a better outcome for the environment.
On 3 September, at CII's 16th Sustainability Summit, India introduced the 'Plastic Pact Initiative' first among Asian countries. Twenty-seven business organizations along with major FMCG brands, manufacturers, retailers, and recyclers have joined the pact as founding members. The main aim of the 'India Plastic Pact' is to fix the plastic waste problem and generate sustainable procedures for designing, using, and reusing plastics with the help of public-private collaboration. The vision is to bring a unified national framework in which businesses, stakeholders, government, and NGOs will reduce, reuse, and recycle plastics in their value chain.
IPP is primarily focused to lessen the use of problematic plastics in India, keep valuable materials in the economy and generate employment and investment in India's plastic industry. There are four time-bound targets with aligned interim missions to be delivered in this pact. The mission is to formulate a list of disposable plastic packaging and commodities and take steps to redesign and innovate. It looks forward to achieving a target of 100% reusable and recyclable plastic packaging, 50% of packaging to be effectively recycled, 25% average recycled materials across all plastic packaging by 2030. The pact intends to represent the value chain for plastics, oversee the full life cycle of packaging, tackle the challenges of all plastic sectors systematically, and encounter all polymers and formats for better management of plastic composites.
The pact will work following the other initiatives which are already in action. The pact will ensure assistance to those efforts by addressing the plastic waste crisis in India realistically. The pact will work to ensure that it is not replication but a more advanced and accelerated process.
As the packaging industry of India is growing rapidly, addressing the generation of plastic waste is the need of the hour. Policies of government and individual efforts are not enough to address this situation. Collective action and representation from multiple business stakeholders are essential which is the underline requirement of 'India Plastic's Pact'. The pact is expected to generate new business models, transform the packaging sector and promote collective business strategies to reduce unnecessary plastic usage, introduce new techniques, disseminate those and stimulate a realistic circulate economy from today's linear economy of plastic in India.
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