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India's upcoming plastic ban will bring cheer to many, despair to some

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Reuters New Delhi, India Sep 30, 2019, 11.55 AM (IST)

With India set to impose a nationwide ban on several single-use plastics ranging from bags, cups and straws on Wednesday, many are cheering the environment-friendly move while some, quintessentially those belonging to the plastic industry, are living in the fear of loss of employment.

In an Independence Day speech on August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged people and government agencies to "take the first big step" on October 2 towards freeing India of single-use plastic.

However, what is being termed as India's most sweeping measure yet to stamp out single-use plastics from cities and villages that rank among the world's most polluted, has left many distressed - especially the small-time plastic manufacturers and street snack sellers who say the ban would deal a death blow to their business.

"There is no work from one month. I have to pay for the school fees of my children and other expenses of my family and it is a lot of trouble for us," said Bijendra Singh, a worker employed in a disposable plastic cup making factory.

The disposable plastic cup is one of the six items proposed to be banned.

The ban is likely to be imposed on plastic bags, cups, small bottles, straws and some types of sachets.

However, environmentalists say the government should not rush to ban before lining up the alternatives. They say managing waste and finding alternatives with environmental, social, and economic feasibility should be the first step toward curbing plastic pollution.

Globally, concerns are growing about plastic pollution, with particular focus on the oceans, where nearly 50 per cent of single-use plastic products end up, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, studies show.

India lacks an organised system for management of plastic waste, leading to widespread littering across its towns and cities.

The ban on the first six items of single-use plastics will clip 5 per cent to 10 per cent from India's annual consumption of about 14 million tonnes of plastic, the first official said.

Penalties for violations of the ban will probably take effect after an initial six-month period to allow people time to adopt alternatives, officials said.