This presents the commitment to eliminate single use plastic products pollution, including ban on single use plastic products which have low utility and high littering potential by France and India.
Plastic products pollution due to littered and mismanaged plastic waste is a global environmental issue that must be urgently addressed. It has adverse impacts on ecosystems in general and marine ecosystems in particular ( 80% of plastic waste originate from land sources. 9.2 billion tons of plastic have been produced since 1950, among which 7 billion tons of waste have been generated. Each year, 400 million tons of plastic are produced, of which one-third are produced for single use products and around 10 million tons are dumped into the ocean).
Single-use plastic products are defined by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as “an umbrella term for different types of products that are typically used once before being thrown away or recycled”, which include food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups, cutlery and shopping bags.
Progress has been made to tackle plastic pollution at a global scale. Noticeable actions include the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants, amendments of the annexes to the Basel Convention to address the issue of transboundary movement of plastic waste, the marine litter action plans under the regional seas conventions, and the International Marine Organization (IMO) action plan for marine litter from ships. A series of UNEA resolutions since 2014 have also addressed the challenge and an ad-hoc open-ended expert group on marine litter (AHEG) was established in 2017 by UNEA3 to identify potential solutions. It concluded its work on 13 November 2020 detailing a number of response options, including development of “definitions of unnecessary and avoidable use of plastic, including single-use plastic”.
There is, therefore, a need to decrease specifically our consumption of single-use plastic products and to consider alternative solutions. In March 2019, 4th United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), adopted a resolution on “Addressing Single-use plastic products pollution” (UNEP/EA.4/R.9), which “encourages Member States to take actions, as appropriate, to promote the identification and development of environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic products, taking into account the full life cycle implications of those alternatives”. IUCN adopted three resolutions addressing the issue of single-use plastic (WCC 2020 Res 19 & Res 69 & 77). Resolution 69 urges “State Members to take priority action by 2025 to prevent pollution of protected areas by single-use plastic products, with the ultimate goal of eliminating all plastic pollution in protected areas”.
Single-use plastic products, with low utility and high littering potential should be phased out and replaced by reusable products based on a circular economy approach. Solutions exist and have been clearly identified and tackling this issue can bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation. Such solutions may include:
Ban on identified single use plastic items where alternatives are readily available and affordable;
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) so that producers are responsible for environmentally sound waste management;
Promote reuse, prescribe minimum level of recycling of plastic packaging waste, use of recycled plastic content;
Checking / monitoring the compliance of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR);
Incentives to help producers design alternatives to single-use plastics;
Labelling requirements indicating how waste should be disposed;
France and India renew their commitment to progressively reduce and eliminate consumption and production of certain single-use plastic products and have taken steps to reduce plastic pollution as given below:
France has banned, since January 2021, a series of single-use plastic products such as cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers, cups for beverages, food containers, sticks for balloons, buds with plastic sticks, under the law of 10 February 2020 against waste for a circular economy and following the European Union Single-use Plastic Directive. France also targets the end of single-use plastic packaging by 2040;
India has brought rules on 12th August 2021 for phasing out of identified single-use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential by the 1st July 2022, through the elimination of light weight plastic bags, buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks and polystyrene, plastic plates, glasses, cutlery (plastic forks, spoons, knives, trays), plastic stirrers, etc.
France is implementing since 1993 Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for household packaging and will develop EPR on catering packaging from 2023, on chewing-gums from 2024, and on industrial and commercial packaging and fishing from 2025.
India had mandated Extended Producer Responsibility on producers, importers and brand owners for plastic packaging waste in 2016.
India has notified Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility on Plastic Packaging in February 2022, that mandates enforceable targets to producers, importers and brand owners for (i) recycling of different categories of plastic packaging, (ii) reuse of identified rigid plastic packaging waste and (iii) use of recycled plastic content in plastic packaging.
India and France will constructively engage other likeminded countries to strengthen the negotiations for an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, pursuant to the historic UNEA 5.2 resolution.