How India can face the tidal wave of marine plastic?

Source: Down to Earth

Relevance: Ways to tackle marine plastic pollution.

Synopsis: Plastic waste contributes to pollution on a major scale. Some solid steps are required to handle it.

Plastic waste 


The extensive use of plastic in India has reached a critical point, which should concern everyone.

  • The Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) Annual Report on Implementing the Plastic Garbage Rules, 2016, is the only regular estimate of the quantum of plastic waste generated in India.
    • According to it, the waste generated in 2018-19 was 3,360,043 ton per year (roughly 9,200 ton per day).
  • Plastic waste contributes about 5-6% of total solid waste generated in India.
  • According to a 2017 science breakthroughs study, only 9% of all plastic waste has ever been recycled.
  • Approximately 12% of plastic waste has been burnt, while the remaining 79% has accumulated in landfills.

Plastic waste is blocking our sewers, threatening marine life, and generating health risks for residents in landfills or the natural environment.

Marine plastic pollution

Financial cost: The financial costs of marine plastic pollution are significant as well.

  • According to conservative forecasts made in March 2020, the direct harm to the blue economy of the ASEAN Nations will be $2.1 billion per year (considering only Shipping, fisheries and aquaculture and maritime tourism sectors) 
  • According to the World Economic Forum report, 2016, under a “business-as-usual” scenario, this $2.1 billion per year estimate is likely to rise, as plastics production is expected to triple between now and 2050.

Social costs: Enormous social costs accompany these economic costs.

  • Residents of coastal regions suffer from the harmful health impacts of plastic pollution and waste brought in by the tides, and are deeply linked to the fishing and tourism industry for their livelihoods.

Therefore, we must begin finding solutions to prevent plastics and other waste from polluting our oceans and clean them up.


  1. Designing a product: Identifying plastic items that can be replaced with non-plastic, recyclable, or biodegradable materials is the first step. Find alternatives to single-use plastics and reusable design goods by working with product designers.
  2. Pricing: Plastics are inexpensive because they are made with substantially subsidized oil. There are few economic incentives to employ recycled plastics. Price structures that promote alternative materials or reused and recycled plastics are necessary.
  3. Technologies and Innovation: Developing tools and technology to assist governments and organizations in measuring and monitoring plastic garbage in cities.
    • ‘Closing the loop’ project of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, assists cities in developing more inventive policy solutions to tackle the problem.
    • A similar approach can be adopted in India. 
  4. Promoting a plastic-free workplace: All catering operations should be prohibited from using single-use plastics. To encourage workers and clients to improve their habits, all single-use goods can be replaced with reusable items or more sustainable single-use alternatives.
  5. Producer responsibility: Extended responsibility can be applied in the retail (packaging) sector, where producers are responsible for collecting and recycling products that they launch into the market.
  6. Municipal and community actions: Beach and river clean-ups, public awareness campaigns explaining how people’s actions contribute to marine plastic pollution (or how they may solve it), and disposable plastic bag bans and levies.
  7. Multi-stakeholder collaboration: Government ministries at the national and local levels must collaborate in the development, implementation, and oversight of policies. This includes participation from industrial firms, non-governmental organizations, and volunteer organizations. Instead of acting in isolation, all these stakeholders must collaborate and synchronize with one another.
Way forward

Solving the problem of marine plastic involves a change in production and consumption habits, which would help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The central UN SDGs that deal with marine plastics are SDG 12 and SDG 14.

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