Prime Minister Narendra Modi has triggered a debate with his renewed push for cutting out the use of single-use plastic in India. Last year, on World Environment Day, the Indian government had announced its plan to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022. Earlier this week, speaking at the 14th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD-COP14), Prime Minister Modi
highlighted that commitment and also urged the global community to say goodbye to single-use plastic.
The Prime Minister reiterated the statement while speaking in Mathura on Wednesday. He
exhorted Indians to make their homes and workplaces single-use plastic free by October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
So what is single use plastic, what are the commonly available alternatives & what can we learn from some global experiences on this front?
What Is Single-Use Plastic?
Single-use plastic, also referred to as disposable plastic, includes items that are used only once before they are disposed or recycled. This kind of plastic is most commonly used for plastic bags, cutlery & packaging.
SUP Alternatives: Ten Global Experiences
Beverage majors PepsiCo & CocaCola have announced their plans to reduce use of plastic bottles for their packaged drinking water brands. PepsiCo has said that its 'Aquafina' water brand will offer aluminium can packaging in US food service outlets from next year. The brand is also testing the move in retail.
CocaCola has also unveiled its plan to use aluminium packaging for its water brand 'Dasani'. The company will launch aluminium cans in the Northeastern United States this fall and will expand it to other regions in 2020. It plans to roll out aluminium bottles by mid-2020. The company will also install water vending machines under the brand 'PureFill' across the US.
Loop, a home delivery service for food and household goods in the United States, has joined hands with big brands to deliver products in reusable packaging. The company delivers items to the subscriber's door. Once the consumer finishes using the products, Loop picks up the empty packages, cleans them and readies them for reuse. Subscribers to this service also have the option of setting their products to "auto-refill when returned". The company is already working with several big brands which include Tide, Häagen-Dazs, The Body Shop, Pantene, Gillette, Oral-B, Colgate, Tropicana, Dove & Axe.
Several hotel chains have also decided to end the use of single-use toiletry bottles. Last month Marriott International, the world's largest hotel chain, announced the expansion of its 2018 initiative to replace small, single-use toiletry bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel with larger, pump-topped bottles. The company has already rolled out larger bottles at about 1,000 properties in North America, and expects most of its hotels to make the switch by December 2020.
InterContinental Hotels Group has also decided to replace bathroom miniatures with bulk-size amenities. The company plans to complete the transition across more than 5,600 hotels during 2021. Almost one third of IHG properties have already made the transition. This initiative follows IHG's pledge to remove plastic straws from its hotels by the end of 2019.
In Japan, FMCG major Nestle has started using paper wrapping to package its KitKat products to tackle plastic waste. The paper packaging also comes with instructions to create origami. The country is one of the biggest markets for KitKat, with millions of these chocolate bars being sold every day.
Burger giant McDonald's is working on a plastic-free model for its restaurants. In June this year, the company opened what it calls "the Better McDonald's Store" - a nearly plastic-free restaurant in Berlin for 10 days. It replaced plastic straws with paper straws and plastic cutlery with wooden cutlery. But the more interesting part of the experiment was the use of edible waffle cups to replace condiment sachets and containers. This follows other initiatives like serving hot drinks in porcelain or glass mugs across all McDonald's restaurants in Germany. At McCafé outlets customers have the option to bring their own cups and receive a discount.
Portuguese airline Hi Fly, which operated the world's first single-use plastic-free flight in December 2018, aims to replicate the model across its entire fleet by the end of 2019. The airline has started using bamboo and compostable alternatives for products like cups, cutlery, containers, salt and pepper kits, rubbish bags, gloves etc. In the process it has managed to avoid generation of 500 grams of plastic waste per passenger per flight.
One of the world's largest toy manufacturers Hasbro has decided to phase out plastic from its new product packaging, beginning 2020. The company aims to eliminate virtually all plastic in packaging by the end of 2022. The American toy company, which is the maker of brands like Monopoly and Taboo, already uses plant-based bioPET in its products, and has recently launched a toy recycling programme also.
Back home, Indore Municipal Corporation is replacing plastic bottles and single-use plastic utensils in its offices with copper, glass and other traditional alternatives. It is also planning to install huge dishwashers at its offices and in marketplaces which have multiple food outlets to promote the use of reusable utensils.
Indian Railways is planning to use kulhads (earthen cups) and earthenware plates & is taking help from Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) to expedite the transition. Air India has also announced its plan to phase out single-use plastic products, starting October 2.