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Banning Single-Use Plastic & Climate Justice

Symbiosis Law School, Noida 04 Nov 2019

Let there be balance in the space, Let there be balance in the sky, Let there be peace on the earth, Let there be calmness, Let there be, Let there be growth in the plants, Let there be growth in the tree, Let there be grace in the Gods, Let there be bliss in the Brahman, Let there be balance in everything, Let there be peace and peace, Let such peace be with every one of us!


On October 2nd, 2019, a voice echoed in the nation that there shall be a ban on Single-Use Plastic (SUP). This proposed ban received responses in varied hues, the environmentalist exalted, home keepers squinted at the heap of hoarded plastic and the business dealers itched to seek an alternative to this priced commodity. The question evolved that whether we have enough time to lurk for these responses and weigh the world in utilitarian measures or the loss has outweighed our short term demands. To dwell on it one has to understand the whole universe of the plastic plethora, what defines it? What governs it? What’s the substitute mechanism?

Consequently, it will lead us to the concept of Climate Justice and how pragmatically it will impact the various factors, such as the direct bearer of the ban, the plastic industry and the economy in general, further how a balance must be struck by way of two-sided approach of both individuals to start looking at suitable alternatives that are eco-friendly and of the government as the medium for providing a mechanism for executing individual actions and giving birth to a holistic public policy.  

what is single-use plastic (sup), its impact on the environment

Plastic is a lightweight, hygienic and resistant material which can be molded in a variety of ways and utilized in a wide range of applications. Single-use plastics, often also referred to as disposable plastics, are commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include, among other items, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups, and cutlery.

The diurnal usage of SUP lands unmanaged in the environment, where it continues to have climate impacts as it degrades. Squarely affecting the climate, if the production, disposal, and incineration of plastic continue on their present growth trajectory, aggregate global greenhouse emissions will outweigh their limit beyond their carbon budget. (A carbon budget is the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide emissions permitted over a period of time to keep within a certain temperature threshold). Thus in whole plastic has penetrated every iota of our existence, from oceans, rivers, soils, and other destinations in the environment, and its emissions and the climate impacts continue to mount via off-gassing and interference with marine food webs and more so plastic degradation is long cycle and only amounts to exacerbation in the microplastic in the environment, making it imperative to curb its exhaustive use.

What Governs Plastic Consumption?

At the paramount, The Constitution forecast certain fundamental duties on behalf of us as citizens and state to protect our environment, further Supreme Court (SC) in a catena of judgments such as, in Karuna Society for Animals and Nature & others v. Union of India & others underscored how animals suffer from plastic waste, additionally in Motion v. Union of India, the SC laid certain recommendations on how to avoid plastic waste production during the pilgrimage. Further in the form of Statute, The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. laid down certain parameters with regard to trade and business of plastic carry bags and sheets which are presently implemented by various states.

 Causal Effect Of The Plastic Ban

The ban on single-use plastic comes with a load that will set back this industry directly. Although the aim of the ban is to eventually make India plastic-free by 2022, the consequences, whether immediate or long-term are inevitable.  A report by FICCI said the Rs 53,000 crore plus segment of the plastic manufacturing industry would be hit because of the ban, leading to job losses. The food processing industry would suffer from a revenue loss of Rs 90,000 crore. Apart from the industrial implications, the cost-effectiveness of such a ban is something that will have to be borne by the citizens, even more by less-privileged. The cost of the possible alternatives is something that is not thought on comprehensively let alone proposed. A pro-active approach on behalf of the government will be instigated impacting various social and economic layers too.


is climate justice the answer?

The plastic consumption, consequent ban, and laws, opens the portal for plaintive murmurings of climate justice. Climate Justice as UNFCCC defines, deals with issues of two aspects of equity: intra-generational and inter-generational equity. Implying firstly, that a distributive justice has to be pursued, an equal distribution of the present burden of climate crisis and also that of an individual equilibrium with the environment is to be struck so as to serve to the needs of the future generations, in ways of adopting nature savvy practices.

Over time principles such as that of The Polluter Pays Principle, The Beneficiary Pays Principle and lastly The Ability to Pay Principle, have tried to shift the onus on each other whenever climate crisis occurs and thus mitigating the profound approach to Climate Justice.

Individual And Government -The Clog Wheel Mechanism 

The current plastic pollution crisis has put a lot of pressure on all concerned stakeholders but hardly of any avail. Government and the individual has to work in tandem.

Maharashtra government came out with an elaborate a booklet with guidelines on this ban, explaining what comes under the garb of single-use plastic.  While this booklet has a number of items that are banned there still exist certain category of plastic goods that are still allowed despite the ban, plastic materials made up of 20% recyclable plastic, PET bottles, plastics used for import purposes, to name a few. This is indeed is a stepping stone for removing the inertia set down upon the Climate, however we are too deep into the problem and to get out of it without disrupting the economy and consumer  convenience is a long drawn approach.

Further shifting the role to individuals all consumers are well aware of the ill-effects of a miss-managed disposable system but what any stakeholder didn’t anticipate is when it would become a menace. Hence it is plausible for individuals to personally subscribe to no-plastic policy to strike a symbiotic balance with the government.


Having disclosed the definition and hurdles of the ban on Single-Use Plastic while proposing to strike harmony with various stakeholders it is of essence that policies must be underscored so as to suit the deficiency in the Indian mechanism. Here are certain suggestions.

  1. 1) Research and Development initiatives should be financed by the government on this issue so as to collect social and economic robust data. 
  2. 2) Estimate the Cost-Effectiveness for various social groups and plastic hub region, the tax must be imposed in proportion, for example the Plass Tax, imposed in European Nations, gauges the most polluted places, and the tax burden has wider goals than generating revenue.
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