DMPQ- What is single use plastic? Explain how management of single use plastic pollution is a severe challenge for India.

single-use plastics are goods that are made primarily from fossil fuel–based chemicals (petrochemicals) and are meant to be disposed of right after use—often, in mere minutes. Single-use plastics are most commonly used for packaging and serviceware, such as bottles, wrappers, straws, and bags.

The bigger challenge is to put in place an efficient waste management system, which would bring in a more sustainable way to deal with plastic waste. This would involve segregation of waste at source, collection and recycling. It would also mean nudging people towards making behavioural changes.

Almost 60 per cent of all plastic waste in the country is recycled. But most of it is done in informal, home-based industries which produce very low-quality recycled plastic.

It is possible for recycled plastic to be mixed with virgin material to then produce high-grade plastic products that are required to store food, for example, but that requires a more organised industrial scale set-up equipped with modern technology. A PET bottle, when currently recycled, most likely ends up producing cloth-like fibres that are used to make shirts or jackets. But a PET bottle can be recycled into an equivalent grade of plastic to produce another PET bottle, thus reducing the demand for virgin plastic.

But high-quality recycling has its own requirements. The input material has to be unadulterated. Dirt or mud on the plastic can make it unsuitable for high-quality recycling. That means users would need to clean the plastic bag or packaging material before disposing it in garbage. Similarly, multi-layered plastic, the kind that is used for packaging branded chips or biscuits, for example, are difficult to recycle because of the presence of materials that are chemically different.

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