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Recently, the Earth witnessed Plastic Overshoot Day on July 28, 2023. This marks the point in the year when the amount of plastic waste generated exceeds the global waste management capacity.

The Plastic Overshoot Day Report by Swiss-based research consultancy Earth Action (EA) sheds light on the alarming issue of plastic pollution and its implications on the environment.

What are the Major Findings of the Report?


Plastic Overshoot Day is determined based on a country’s Mismanaged Waste Index (MWI). The gap in waste management capacity and plastic consumption is called MWI.

Plastic Pollution Crisis: The report highlights that an additional 68,642,999 tonnes of plastic waste will enter nature in 2023, indicating a severe plastic pollution crisis.

The report identifies 12 countries responsible for 52% of the world's mismanaged plastic waste. India is among them, alongside China, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Russia, Mexico, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, and Kazakhstan.

The three countries with the highest mismanaged waste percentages—Mozambique (99.8%), Nigeria (99.44%), and Kenya (98.9%) belong to Africa.

India ranks fourth in the MWI, with 98.55% of generated waste.

Short-life Plastics: Short-life plastics, including plastic packaging and single-use plastics, make up approximately 37% of the total plastic used annually. These categories pose a higher risk of leakage into the environment.

India's Plastic Overshoot: Plastic Overshoot Day for India occurred on January 6, 2023, when the country's plastic waste generation outweighed its waste management capacity.

India's per-person consumption is 5.3 kg, significantly lower than the global average of 20.9 kg.

What is the Major Significance of Plastic?

  • Food Preservation: Plastics are widely used in food packaging, which helps extend the shelf life of perishable goods, reducing food waste and enabling efficient transportation of goods.
  • Medical Applications: Plastics play a crucial role in modern medicine. They are used in medical devices, such as syringes, catheters, and artificial joints, which improve patient care and quality of life.
  • Safety in Transportation: Plastics are used in automotive applications to make vehicles lighter, which can lead to improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, contributing to a greener environment.
  • Insulation: Plastic materials are excellent insulators for electrical and thermal purposes. They help improve energy efficiency in buildings and electronic devices.
  • Water Conservation: Certain types of plastics, like those used in pipes and irrigation systems, help conserve water by reducing leakages and improving water distribution efficiency.

What are the Issues Associated with Plastic-Waste in India?

  • Poor Waste Management Infrastructure: One of the major problems is the inadequate waste management infrastructure in India. The majority of municipal authorities lack proper facilities for segregation, collection, transportation and recycling of plastic waste. As a result, a significant portion of plastic waste ends up in landfills, open dumpsites, or even littered in the environment, leading to severe pollution. According to the Centre for Science and Environment's report, India recycles 12.3% of its plastic waste and incinerates 20%.
  • Single-Use Plastic Products: The widespread use of single-use plastic products, such as bags, bottles, straws, and packaging, exacerbates the plastic waste problem. These items are convenient but are discarded after one use, contributing significantly to the accumulation of plastic waste.
  • Marine Pollution: India's coastal areas are particularly affected by plastic waste. Rivers and other water bodies act as conduits for plastic waste to reach the oceans, resulting in marine pollution. This pollution harms marine life, ecosystem health, and can even have economic impacts on coastal communities reliant on fishing and tourism.
  • Health Impacts: Improper plastic waste disposal and the burning of plastic can release harmful chemicals and toxins, leading to adverse health effects for communities living near waste disposal sites or engaged in informal recycling activities.


What are Government Initiatives Related to Plastic Waste Management?

  • National Dashboard on Elimination of Single Use Plastic and Plastic Waste Management
  • Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022
  • Project REPLAN

Way Forward

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): India should invest in waste management policies like EPR, which holds producers responsible for the end-of-life disposal of their plastic products and promotes circular economy.
  • Waste-to-Energy Plants: There is a need to invest in waste-to-energy plants that use advanced technologies like plasma gasification or anaerobic digestion to convert non-recyclable plastic waste into energy.These plants can help reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and generate electricity while managing plastic waste effectively.The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change has indicated that India has the capacity to process 14.2 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, which accounts for 71% of all primary plastic produced.
  • Designing Alternatives: 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. Promoting the use of Oxo-biodegradable plastics, that are manufactured to be broken down by ultra-violet radiation and heat, more quickly than regular plastics.
  • Supporting the UN Treaty to End Plastic Pollution: India's role in addressing plastic pollution is crucial.The country was among the first to propose a global ban on single-use plastics in 2019. The UN Treaty to End Plastic Pollution represents an opportunity for global action against plastic pollution and should be promoted.