Effecting the ban on single-use plastics (SUPs)


  • The union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 12, 2021. In keeping with the spirit of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the country is taking steps to curb littered and unmanaged plastic waste pollution.
  • Since July 1, 2022, India has banned the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of single-use plastic (SUP) items with low utility and high littering potential.
  • India is a party to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). In all, 124 nations are party to the UNEA, and India has signed a resolution to draw up an agreement in the future that will make it legally binding for signatories to address the full life cycle of plastics, from production to disposal.

About SUP:

  • SUPs are plastic items that are used once and discarded.
  • Example: SUPs have the highest shares of plastic manufactured and used — from packaging of items, to bottles (shampoo, detergents, cosmetics), polythene bags, face masks, coffee cups, cling film, trash bags, food packaging etc.
Extent of the SUP pandemic: statistics:According to a 2021 report of the Minderoo Foundation, single-use plastics account for a third of all plastic produced globally, with 98% manufactured from fossil fuels.SUPs also account for the majority of plastic discarded – 130 million metric tonnes globally in 2019 — all of which is burned, buried in landfills or discarded directly into the environment.On the current trajectory of production, it has been projected that SUPs could account for 5-10% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.Data for India:The report found that India features in the top 100 countries of SUP waste generation – at rank 94 (the top being Singapore).India’s net generation of single-use plastic waste is 5.6 MMT million metric tonnes), and per capita generation is 4 kg.

Rationale for the SUP ban:

  • The choice for the first set of single-use plastic items for the ban was based on the difficulty of collection and recycling.
  • When plastic remains in the environment for long periods of time and does not decay, it turns into microplastics – first entering our food sources and then the human body, and this is extremely harmful.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles. Officially, they are defined as plastics less than five millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter.They cause pollution by entering natural ecosystems from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, food packaging, and industrial processes.Two classifications of microplastics are currently recognized. Primary microplastics include any plastic fragments or particles that are already 5.0 mm in size or less before entering the environment. These include microfibers from clothing, microbeads, and plastic pellets (also known as nurdles).Secondary microplastics arise from the degradation (breakdown) of larger plastic products through natural weathering processes after entering the environment. Such sources of secondary microplastics include water and soda bottles, fishing nets, plastic bags, microwave containers, tea bags and tire wear.Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems, where they cause water pollution.

Problems of SUP:

  • The largest share of single-use plastic is that of packaging – with as much as 95% of single use belonging to this category – from toothpaste to shaving cream to frozen foods.
  • The items chosen are of low value and of low turnover and are unlikely to have a big economic impact, which could be a contributing reason.

Enforcement of the ban:

  • The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre, and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.
  • Directions have been issued at national, state and local levels to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items.
  • Directions have also been issued to SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees to modify or revoke consent to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.
  • Local authorities have been directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items will not be sold on their premises, and existing commercial licences will be cancelled if they are found to be selling these items.

Promoting Compostable and Biodegradable Plastics : The CPCB issued one-time certificates to 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic and the BIS passed standards for biodegradable plastic.

Harms of single-use plastics (SUPs):

  • The purpose of single-use plastics is to use them once or for a short period of time before disposing of them. Plastic waste has drastic impacts on the environment and human health. There is a greater likelihood of single-use plastic products ending up in the sea than reusable ones.
  • India has taken resolute steps to mitigate pollution caused by littered single-use plastics. A number of items are banned, including earbuds with plastic sticks, balloon sticks, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decorations, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers, etc.

Impact of SUPs on environment :

  • Littered single-use plastic items have an adverse effect on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. All countries face a major environmental challenge due to pollution caused by single-use plastic items
  • India piloted a resolution on single-use plastics pollution at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019, recognising the urgent need for the global community to address this issue. This resolution was adopted at the UN Environment Assembly as an important step forward.
  • In the recently concluded 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2022, India engaged constructively with all member states to develop a consensus on a resolution to drive global action against plastic pollution.
  • However, India is not the first country to ban single-use plastics. Bangladesh became the first country to ban thin plastic bags in 2002; China had issued a ban on plastic bags in 2020 with a phased implementation.

Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021

  • The new rules prohibited the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of plastic carry bags whose thickness is less than 75 microns. From December 31, 2022, plastic carry bags whose thickness is less than 120 microns will be banned.
  • The notification clearly mentioned that plastic or PVC banners/ hoardings should have more than 100 microns in thickness, and non-woven plastic (polypropylene) must be more than 60 GSM (grams per square metre). Non-woven plastic bags have a cloth-like texture but are counted among plastics.
  • Still, plastic or PET bottles, counted among the most recyclable types of plastic, have been left out of the scope of the ban.

Innovation in plastic management:

  • In addition, the Indian government has taken steps to promote innovation and create an ecosystem for accelerated adoption and availability of alternatives across the country.
  • To ensure the effective enforcement of the ban, national and State-level control rooms will be established, as well as special enforcement teams for the purpose of checking the illegal sale and use of single-use plastics.
  • To prevent the movement of banned single-use plastic items between States and Union Territories, border checkpoints have been established.
  • In an effort to empower citizens to help curb the plastic menace, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has launched a grievance redressal application.
  • The Government has been taking measures for awareness generation towards the elimination of single-use plastics. The awareness campaign has brought together entrepreneurs and start-ups, industry, Central, State and local Governments, regulatory bodies, experts, citizen organisations, R&D and academic institutions.

The role of the manufacturer:

  • MoEFCC notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022 in February 2022.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life.
  • The guidelines provide a framework to strengthen the circular economy of plastic packaging waste, promote the development of new alternatives to plastic packaging and provide the next steps for moving towards sustainable plastic packaging by businesses.

Challenges in plastic waste management:

  • The ban will succeed only if all stakeholders participate enthusiastically and engage in effective engagement and concerted actions.
  • However, if we look back at our past, almost 25 Indian States previously banned plastic at the state level. However, these bans had a very limited impact in reality because of the widespread use of these items.
  • Now the challenge is to see how the local level authorities will enforce the ban in accordance with the guidelines.
  • Banned items such as earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, etc., are non-branded items and it is difficult to find out who the manufacturer is and who is accountable for selling because these items will be available in the market even after the issuing of guidelines.

Way forward:

  • The consumer needs to be informed about the ban through advertisements, newspaper or TV commercials, or on social media. In order to find sustainable alternatives, companies need to invest in research and development.
  • The solution to the plastic pollution problem is not the responsibility of the government alone, but of industries, brands, manufacturers and most importantly consumers.
  • Finding alternatives to plastic seems a little difficult, however, greener alternatives to plastic may be considered a sustainable option. For example, compostable and bio-degradable plastic, etc., may be considered as an option.
  • While the total ban on the use of plastic sounds a great idea, its feasibility seems difficult at this hour, especially in the absence of workable alternatives.

Academia, research and the glass ceiling in India


  • Gender issues, particularly gender inequality and discrimination in academia relating to higher education, perhaps came under the spotlight for the first time in India in 1937 when Professor D.M. Bose, then Professor of physics at Calcutta University, was reluctant to include Bibha Chowdhuri in his research group on the ground that he did not have suitable research projects to assign to women. Chowdhuri was unfazed and had her way. She joined Bose’s research group. Her work on cosmic rays in determining the mass of mesons is legendary.
  • Donna Strickland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, for her work on lasers, and became the third woman to win a physics Nobel, after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963.
  • The general bias against women which arose out of suspected capability of their intelligence and their mettle in undertaking the arduous task of research was quite common in the 20th century. Things have changed and the glass ceiling has been broken. But how far have we progressed in the last 100 years in shedding this bias and ensuring that women are on a par with men in academic institutions.
Glass Ceiling:It refers to an invisible barrier that stops the rise of women (or any other disadvantaged/ marginalised group) from reaching top positions of an organisation, polity or society.The concept originated in corporate management sphere where it was defined as the ‘artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organization into management level positions’But ambit of the concept of glass ceiling has now been expanded to include other spheres as well, in which progress of certain individuals are hampered artificially.

Government’s incentives:

  • Despite the remarkable improvement in the participation of women in higher education and participation in the workforce over the past decades, progress has still been quite uneven.
  • The Government of India has been ramping up efforts to remove gender inequality by providing incentives for women’s higher education.
  • Some of these initiatives include:
  1. Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI): a pilot project under the Department of Science and Technology to promote gender equity in science and technology
  2. Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN)– a plan under the Department of Science and Technology again to encourage women scientists in science and technology and also preventing women scientists from giving up research due to family reasons, are noteworthy.
  3. One of the programmes under KIRAN called ‘Women Scientist Scheme’ — provides career opportunities to unemployed women scientists and technologists, especially those who had a break in their career.
  4. Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEMM (WISTEMM) program– Under this bilateral agreement, Indian women scientists can now work in research labs in the US.
  5. Consolidation of University Research for Innovation and Excellence in Women Universities (CURIE) programme- It aims at improving R&D infrastructure and establishing state-of-the-art research facilities in order to create excellence in S&T in women universities.
  6. Vigyan Jyoti programme- Meritorious girl students of Class 9-12 are being encouraged to pursue higher education and career in the STEM field.
  7. Some institutions are setting up creches so that the scientist mothers can carry on with their research work uninterrupted. Universities too are trying their best to be equal opportunity employers.

However, despite all these endeavours, there is still a gender bias that persists and which has not been removed fully. Women are still an under-represented population globally in hardcore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Women and STEM:

  • In this respect, India’s position in academia is disappointing. According to available UNESCO data on some selected countries, India is at the lowest position, having only 14% female researchers working in STEM areas.
  • Even developed countries like Japan has only 16% female researchers, United States 27%.
  • In India, about 43% of women constitute the graduate population in STEM, which is one of the highest in the world, but there is a downside to this; only 14% of women join academic institutions and universities.
  • Although male and female participation in graduate studies is comparable, the participation of women in research has dropped significantly (27% female as compared to 73% male). Percentage of women in faculty positions begins to shrink with each step up the ladder.
  • According to a report published recently, at most STEM institutes, women occupy 20% of all professorial positions. The more prestigious the institute, the lower the number of women employees. For example, in IIT Madras only 10% professors are women.
  • Analysis of a few leading private universities does not reflect any significant difference. The number of female participants in decision-making bodies such as the board of governors or council of institutes of higher education of repute is abysmally low.

Glass ceiling in the corporate world:

  • On the contrary, participation of women in leadership and decision-making positions in private enterprises (the corporate sector) is startling when compared to the reality in academics.
  • The number of women in senior management positions in the corporate sector in India is 39%, which is higher than the global average.
  • Number of women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies is 15% while female board members in the management of private enterprises has been growing from 15% in 2016 to 19.7% in 2022. If this trend continues, near parity will be reached by 2045, according to a forecast made by Deloitte.
  • It is worth reflecting on the reasons for this discrepancy in female participation in higher positions in these two sectors. The mechanism of selection and promoting personnel in the private sector is mostly based on competence or merit because it is more result (market) oriented with a definite matrix than what it is in the academic institutes.
  • Second, encouraging the participation of women in the workforce in the private sector with the adoption of various schemes for women began long ago when compared to the initiatives taken by the Government of India in recent years.
  • Various schemes such as flexi-hour worktime, rejoining the workforce after an interim break, sections operated only by women, etc. were introduced in private enterprises as early as the 1990s with the benefits being reaped now.

Causes for under-participation of women in STEM:

  1. Stereotypes: stereotypical gender roles like women work as housewives.
  2. Patriarchal and Societal Causes: biased attitudes in hiring practices or awarding fellowships and grants etc.
  3. Stressors related to marriage and childbirth, pressures to conform to societal norms and trappings of domesticity – responsibility related to running of households and elder care further hinder the representation of women in these non-conventional fields.
  4. Lack of Role Models: Organisational factors have also played a big role in preventing gender parity. Lack of women leaders and women role models may be preventing more women from entering these fields.
  5. Absence of Supportive Institutional Structure: Women leave the workforce, due to the absence of supportive institutional structures during pregnancy, safety issues in fieldwork and workplace.
  6. Poor education and healthcare access are responsible for a lesser number of women in these fields.

Way forward:

  1. Role of Science Academies: While the given issue emanates from the larger problem of the underrepresentation of women in all spheres of life, its persistence in science shows that scientists and science academies need to develop policies and strategies to enhance the representation of women. Science academies have to reflect upon their role and contributions to promote and retain women in science, thereby making science inclusive and sensitive.
  2. Bringing Behavioural Changes: Subdued gender participation emanates from social-economic issues, which can be treated by bringing behavioural change. This can be changed if more women are given leadership positions.
  3. Role model creation: Contributions of women in the STEM sector should be highlighted in textbooks thus making them the role models for the next generation of girls to be leaders in the STEM sector.
  4. Breaking the glass ceiling systemically: Remove the sexism and institutional obstacles that prevent more women from entering the scientific field.
  5. Affirmative action: government can examine having a policy of reservation of seats for women in all research institutions, higher education universities, laboratories and STEM organisations.
  6. Awareness generation: Gender equality is not just an ethical imperative, but also a business priority. Organisations with greater diversity among their executive teams tend to have higher profits and greater innovation capability. By making people realise it, we can improve gender inclusivity across different sectors.


  • Gender equality or parity will happen only when there is a change in mindset and institutions consider women as assets rather than simply a diversity rectification issue.
  • It is hoped the programmes that have been initiated by the Government to empower women in the workforce will usher in gender parity by 2047, which would mark the centenary of India’s Independence- a true ‘Azadi Ka Amrit mahotsav’.


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