In January of 2019, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) issued a statement of intent to make all Indian airports free of plastic. The first phase of this plan, to ban all single-use plastics, is already implemented across more than thirty airports who have already undergone waste assessments for benchmarking. The ban will take effect in the remaining airports upon completion of such assessments, which the AAI says are to be finished by February 2019.
India, the second most populous country in the world, produces 25,000 metric tons of plastic waste every day. In June of 2018, India’s minister of the environment announced that the nation would be single-use plastic free by 2022. Could these bolds statements of intent signal deep national commitment and requisite funding to tackle plastic consumption, or will single-use plastic remain throughout India? If plastic is successfully eradicated from Indian airports, what steps must India take to cut single-use plastic consumption completely?
One low-key alternative emerging is paper bags from waste newspapers, providing a new source of income to rural women. At what point could replacements like biomaterials or reusable containers reach parity or surpass consumer plastics (recyclable and single-use) in affordability and consumer preference? And will there be any negative impacts from too rapid and unsustainable development of such alternatives - such as diversion away from food crops?