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India has banned disposable plastic in Delhi (globalcitizen.org)
671 points by SimplyUseless on Feb 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 256 comments

Rwanda also has this policy, since 2008, and they enforce it. The country is very clean, it looks different than other African countries (and countries like the US), just because there is no plastic rubbish everywhere. I think this is a very good policy, and would welcome it at home.


My father told me that American highways used to be lined with trash until it was made illegal to throw trash out the window.

There was this scene in Mad Men where Don Draper, Betty Draper and the kids go out for a picnic in the new family car. They eat lunch in a grassy field, then when they're done, they pack up their basket and blanket, leaving the beer cans, food wrappers, empty bottles, plastic cutlery, and chicken bones scattered on the grass.

That scene shocked and horrified me more than all the sexism, racism, and homophobia combined.

Edit: saw the other comments, looks like I wasn't the only one affected by that scene.

That still happens in America. See pictures of Washington DC the day after 4th of July. Or Golden Gate Park in SF after a big festival. So many people leave their trash looks it like a dump.

Compare to say Cherry Blossom watching in Japan where a large park will be entirely covered in people but when it's over they will have all cleaned it up.

It's a cultural issue. I have no idea how to influence western cultures to care as much. I've see similar things in most European countries (trashing places).

2 weeks ago on my way to work, I watched a guy pull off to the side of the road. He opened his car door, and just dumped trash out - a few small bags of trash. He had just driven past a gas station and convenience store - both with publicly accessible trash cans to throw stuff away - you don't even have to get out of your car. It's a bizarre mindset some people have - let me drive past the driver-accessible trash cans in a paved parking lot, then pull off on to grass and dirt to dump my crap out of the car. There are some aspects of the US which are great, but this large segment of the population which has less than zero regard for public space is... truly crappy.

It is utterly bizarre. This stuff angers and confuses me in equal measure. It's like a complete refusal to participate in society, just the expectation that someone else will come and tidy up after you. How do these people behave elsewhere in their lives?

One example I keep seeing is people who buy a pack of cigarettes, rip off the plastic film covering and just drop it on the floor. It sends me into a silent rage every time.

I don't think you can neatly separate people by their behavior in this manner, in general, but also in particular when it comes to 'automatic', frequent behavior like disposing of trash. People are irrational.

Most smokers I know will carefully separate their trash and walk hundreds of meters to put everything in the right bin... and yet dispose of their cigarettes all over the place. To my shame I have to admit I was one of those people. Somehow the inconsistency just didn't cross my mind. So many other thoughts took precedence. I'm not saying that this is an excuse, mind.

I do understand the anger and frustration, but I think it's both fairer and more productive to assume that people are not doing these things to intentionally cause harm, and that they might well be upstanding citizens in other areas of life.

I smoke and I was pretty much the person you described until a couple years ago when I saw a friend going out of his way to dispose of the cigarette butts in a trash can. Since them I do whatever I have to do, including storing it inside my cigarette pack, to not throw any butts on the floor.

As a non-smoker, it's my number one gripe with smokers and why I used to consider them scum with little remorse when places started restricting where they smoke, this I judge smokers for more than anything else. So many butts strewn about every where, outside side exits, in the grass by benches, do they think fiberglass is biodegradable or something? I can be in a nice place, a outdoor setting that is other wise pristine, but you'll see a mound of cigerette butt's. It'll often be next to an ash tray or cigarette disposal too.

I don't fathom how you don't/didn't notice, it's like throwing bubblegum wrappers on the ground, yeah its small, but when you smoke packs of cigarettes in the same spot it adds up, not to mention more of a hassle to clean up by others like picking up confetti off the ground. I'm glad you realized it, but I can't imagine how people are utterly clueless about it being a problem (I just assumed all smokers were a-holes because they didn't care).

Same here! Monkey see, monkey do.

A lot of research has gone into what makes people behave this way. Read about "Tragedy of Commons"[1] and "Diffusion of Responsibility" [2] for more insights.

The net-net is that people rationalize their actions using whatever means necessary.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_responsibility

Well, the expectation that someone else will come and tidy up after you is exactly how society works. It's just that everybody is the someone else.

I say this as the weird guy random walking the parking lot, picking up trash and transporting it to the wastebin.

If you've spent your whole life feeling victimized by society then you do whatever little things you can to give a big middle finger back. If you're a Black single mom that has to work two jobs to get by, maybe it's easy for you to justify throwing your McDonald's wrappers on the parking lot ground.

I have a different theory: I call it the "raised by wolves theory". If a person doesn't have the benefit of good parenting/good examples, they grow up to be less socialized.

The single mom in your example may have had little parenting because her mom was working 3 jobs perhaps.

Anyone else remember the "don't litter" public service announcement on TV with a crying Indian?

I think a much simpler explanation is that most people don't bother justifying much of their behavior in the first place.

The race of the person was not mentioned, it was interesting that you assumed that they were black -- although I do not disagree with your point.

It was an example of a kind of person being victimized by society.

This is an interesting way of looking at it. I wonder if this really is the psychology of people who do stuff like this.

If this is the case, it would be interesting to find out whether there is some correlation between wealth inequality and rates of littering.

A counter point would be all the smoking middle class people I see everyday that throw their butts on the ground.

Counterpoint: I went on vacation to the Dominican Republic a few years back, and went to one of the more remote villages where there was a river outlet. There was a guy there who wanted to take us out on his boat, but we looked in the water and about half of it was covered with an opaque drift of plastic jugs, pieces of styrofoam, etc. I think in the US we have some antisocial assholes roaming around like the one you saw, but it's not like everyone does it by default.

That's awful. I'm fairly sure here in Canada, people would pick the trash up and chase you down the road with it. I've never seen it happen though.

I tried to get a picture of his car, but the sun was at too difficult of an angle. Another thought that made me pause about confronting him was guns. Yay, thanks rampant gun ownership - you certainly prevented an ugly confrontation there, as the idea that I might be shot for confronting someone about trash dumping prevented too much action on my part.

I'd posted in our local facebook community page, and 2 other interesting stories came up.

1. someone posted they'd seen something similar a few weeks earlier. They'd confronted the person, and the other person pulled a gun out and threatened them. I do not know if the original person involved police after that. While it might sound far-fetched to some, I live in the rural south of the US.

2. someone else posted a similar story, and had taken a picture of the person dumping trash in public and posted it to the facebook group. that poster was harassed online, with many people complaining that they were "violating the other person's privacy" by posting their picture online without consent.

I get truly demoralized at time by living in this area (we're planning a move, but possibly not far enough away).

> rural south of the US

That's the problem. Get out of there ASAP. It has no redeeming qualities. Best move of my life.

Unless you have deep roots there and you want to take on the monumental task of actually making your own part of it a better place. Maybe join the city council of a town near a place like Atlanta or Tuscaloosa, and try to spread their civilization a little further into the wilderness.

Wow, you dont like the south, but stop being a bigot. You are demonstrating the EXACT blind hatred you imply you are against. STOP.

Agreed. As someone who has spent most of his life in various parts of the South, there are good and bad parts, same as anywhere else.

I like the warm weather, beaches, neighborhood friendliness, greenery, and relaxed cost of living.

There's absolutely no visible consequence of leaving your trash in the park in a big city. The city workers will be by later that day to clean it up, or more likely in San Francisco where I live, scavengers will pick it up for recycling within minutes. Out of sight, out of mind. And why not? We certainly pay enough taxes to support those services.

Please tell me this a troll.

I think that is probably not an uncommon mindset.

Even in Cherry Blossom season, or at fireworks, there's random bits of trash that are flying around.

Though they also make sure to make huuuuge trash cans for the events so that it's not a major pain to throw stuff away. Most people don't want to litter, after all.

The main reason for the cleanliness afterwards are all the extra staff during those periods that go through and pick this stuff up.

> Though they also make sure to make huuuuge trash cans for the events so that it's not a major pain to throw stuff away.

I have never been to a festival where these were not full of rubbish to overflowing.

Japan is very dirty too. Right after fireworks in summer you are basically walking on garbage on the way back. Go to the mount Fuji for a hike and you will see mountains of trash on the hiking trails. its only clean because they clean a lot. not because people dont throw stuff.

I think part of the issue is cultural, and part of it is education.

Japanese society is rooted in Confuscianism, with an emphasis on social harmony. I don't know how we change or improve our cultural technology in the West to move away from ideas like "protect yourself", "look out for number one".

The Japanese also make their school children clean their own school. I think there's obvious value in teaching children to take care of their environment / community. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2001/11/30/lifestyle/kids-g...

What about China then ? Its Confucianism when it works.

Well thank goodness we have Betsy Devos on the case.

With big festivals with thousands of people gathering in park or square, you can expect this in Europe. Problem is that you buy a drink in a plastic cup or bottle, maybe a sandwhich or fries with it, and you need to dispose of the plastic or paper. Where do you leave it? There simply are not enough trash cans around or nearby. In a big crowded place it's not easy to move around, you can get lost etc. So people throw their garbage on the ground. By the way, all available trash cans are full and have a pile load of garbage next to them. So even if they are full, people still use them to keep the trash together.

I don't see the problem here. Afterwards cleaners come and clean the square, streets, whatever. It's part of the game.

On normal days, people here keep the cities, parks and streets rather clean.

Simple, carry the thrash until you find a non full trash can or dispose of it at home.

You're just making excuses for the lazy and inconsiderate.

I don't know about Europe generally but in the UK the number and size of bins in crowded public places is limited because the IRA used to use them for hiding bombs. Seems quaint these days though!

I remember noticing a more deliberate approach to trash in European cities when I visited. Not just throwing it anywhere but setting used cans etc. in the corner, out of the way.

There's a deposit on cans and bottles in many places in Europe, so they're left where homeless people may find them.

> I don't see the problem here. Afterwards cleaners come and clean the square, streets, whatever. It's part of the game.

You think this is a game??

In London, saw someone drive out the garage under my flats, go about 10 metres then chuck some litter out the window and keep going.

Was perplexed more than anything.

At work we have two bins next to each other. One is clearly for garbage (banana peels, unrecyclable items, etc.). The other is clearly for recycling. They are _right next to each other_

I see aluminum cans in the garbage bin daily. I can't fathom the logic.

Yep, I was totally shocked when I saw it. If anyone is curious of the scene -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhcKuMjvcCk

They didn't just "leave it"; Betty literally shook everything off of the picnic blanket and onto the ground before they left. The mess was quite glaring in an otherwise clean area.

I've been told this too. There was a massive anti-littering campaign in the 1950s called "Keep America Beautiful" and it was ironically initiated by the packaging industry[0].


I don't think its ironic at all. Some American industries actually do attempt to pro-actively fix issues to insure long term profitability. Consider groups like UL or ESRB, no government intervention there.

I like the example of pesticides. The are some really nasty pesticides that aren't banned by law, but there are industry groups that work to reduce and effectively ban the ones that cause birth defects and obvious toxic effects. If you look at a list of pesticides India has banned and compare it to a list that the USA banned the difference and a few more are effectively banned by this group. Nothing is stopping someone from making these pesticides at home and using them on their garden but its like UL for pesticides, no one buys in large quantity without these guys approval.

I think they do this seemingly altruistic thing largely because trust makes for better customers.

Admittedly ESRB was formed after the government (senator Joe Lieberman, famously) threatened to regulate the video game industry if they didn't form such a voluntary group.

The ESRB was one of many possible responses, it could have been a different response. Like suing Joe or bribing him or his opponent.

Self-generated codes-of-good-practice usually emerge from out of the shadow of a big governmental stick on the horizon.

That is certainly one view of it, but there is a clear difference between groups like UL and The Tobacco industry.

I am not trying to that everything will work out in some kind of pure capitalist ideal utopia, because I think it clearly won't. Rather I think some industries have enough decent people in them that they can find good ways to increase profit and increase long term good will.

People here make is sound like the ESRB was the only thing stopping video games being legislated out of existence. When the game industry chose to do it, they did it to attempt to make it easy to wholesale games correctly so walmart could confidentally buy games and not mix in porn and sex stores could readily get get all the AO games they wanted, this certainly prevented a few embarrassing situations with porn being mixed in with kid toys.

The video game industry could have done something else; a purely selfish and stupidly self motivated industry might have sued the government, hired lobbyists, or made illegal back room deals some other way like it seems apparent. Big Pharma, Big Sugar, the "Military Industrial Complex", Big Oil and countless other Big whatever get accused of this all the time and often with decent evidence.

And they generally help the industry members protect themselves from new competitors.

>I think they do this seemingly altruistic thing largely because trust makes for better customers.

I think this more than anything, plus no company wants to be associated with negativity (I mean, birth defects, obviously ... but also less serious stuff like street litter)

As disposable cans, cups, bottles, and other packaging became more widespread in the postwar years, so did litter, and some blamed the companies that manufactured them—in 1953, for example, Vermont passed a law banning the sale of beer in non-refillable bottles. Consequently, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Seagram's, Procter and Gamble, Dupont, Dow, and others used their influence to found Keep America Beautiful.

I believe "Don't Mess With Texas" was also about littering.

One of my favorite scenes from Mad Men was Don and his family leaving their garbage everywhere after a picnic in a beautiful forest.

edit: panic to picnic

I wonder if Mad Men is more of a caricature. My family would go on picnics in the 60s and we'd clean up after ourselves. Maybe it was because my father was an Air Force officer and the USAF took a dim view of disrespect of other peoples' property. I remember AF bases as always being clean and well taken care of.

I'm not quite as old as you, but I'm old enough to remember when not littering was considered laudable and not simply common decency.

I live and walk along the Charles river and over the last couple of decades Boston and surrounding towns have been actively trying to keep the river and the river walk clean.

Despite all the signs I still have seen people pick up their dogs poop before they pick up their own trash. I literally watched an invidial drop a Twix wrapper while picking up their dogs poop (the fine for not picking up your dog is actually less but there are more signs and I guess stronger culture awareness).

There are signs all over the place not to dump goddam bread into the river or use aggressive fertilizer as this increases runoff and messes up the aquatic wild life.

It's ironic that people will pick up their dog shit because by the middle of summer the swan,geese,duck population is so high from bread dumping that there is bird shit all over the places (walk way). Some of the geese and swans have excrement that is very comparable to the largest dogs.

You still get the problem where pickup trucks are a popular vehicle. It's not intentional (although perhaps from a lack of caring sometimes), but trash thrown in the back simply flies out when cruising down the highway.

I own a truck. It goes maybe 60mph downhill with a tailwind. If you leave anything lighter than a popcan back there it is flying out. A square box has terrible and unpredictable airflow. Truck owners who keep trash in their bed 100% know and accept they are littering. Do not give these asshats a pass.

In Silicon Valley, there is far more trash along highways than there was 30 years ago, well beyond simple per-capita pace.

I've driven through quite a bit of the United States. Attitudes to roadside littering vary wildly. Some eastern Washington state highways and rural Kentucky highways have mind bogglingly improbable amounts of litter for the number of people which travel them.

Time to roll out the "Crying Indian Ad" for another generation.

Littering just pisses me off... I think that and vandalizing publicly accessible restrooms are the two things most likely to inspire a violent response in my mind. It's a complete lack of morality and respect for other's property, and community in general.

> It's a complete lack of morality and respect for other's property, and community in general.

Unless you're visiting from another state, it's YOUR OWN property; you are the public.

I don't normally complain/comment about downvotes, but I'm not getting the downvotes here. Input? Maybe my sentence was just poorly worded?

If I had to guess, I'd say that there are two possible interpretations of your comment:

1) Public spaces are your property as well, so you should feel even worse about trashing your own space.

2) Public spaces are yours, after all, and you can do whatever you want with your own property.

Downvoters most likely assumed that you intended the latter.

yeah, I realized that people may have been reading #2 - I cottoned on to that about 5 minutes ago. :)

#1 was what I meant, and it's how I was hearing it in my head in my own voice when I typed it!! :)

Why do people not feel bad about trashing their own public spaces? I don't want to go all "leave it to beaver", but is there no pride in your environment at all?

by publicly accessible, I'm not just meaning public restrooms, but also restrooms at restaurants, gas stations, etc too, that are accessible to the public (and/or customers).

You'd think green liberal Washington would be low on the list, but I agree. It's hard to spot in the summer when there is greenery everywhere, but when things die off in the winter, all that trash becomes very visible.

Funny thing, he was actually Italian iirc.

Perhaps a new marketing campaign would be useful.

This is the classic of the genre:


It was the "Give a Hoot, don't Pollute" program. Pioneered by Lady Bird Johnson, first Lady. Nobody thought twice about it, until made aware of the issue.

The US National Park Service policy on garbage in the wilderness used to be burning it and burying the remains. It's not uncommon to find old scorched beer cans at some campsites today. They also casually encouraged interacting with animals, including bears.

American highways are certainly still lined with trash.

It's true. There is a riff in "Mad Men" where they just walk off and leave picnic litter in a park. That was also true.

Parts of the US have this policy (plastic bags), too. I thought I'd dislike it, but then I realized how amazing it was that most plastic rubbish disappeared.

Mylar chip bags and 20oz soda bottles... What a revolution for litter and health it'd be if we got rid of those, too.

Plastic bottles and cans really need to have a nationwide deposit system in the US - the way Norway does it helps a lot - they have either a 1 or 2.5kr deposit depending on the size of the bottle, and all the grocery stores have a machine that you feed them into that checks for the label and gives you a slip to get the money from the cashier.

It'd be nice if we could find a way to extend that type of system to other types of waste, but that gets more difficult.

> Plastic bottles and cans really need to have a nationwide deposit system in the US

No, they really don't. Having spent enough time in states that do and states that don't, I can tell you that having a deposit system encourages some bad behavior and doesn't really solve the problem.

1. It encourages scavenger people that dig through recycling and garbage making a mess of things in order to find large bottles with a deposit. On face value you think, 'yay, we get free sanitation workers cleaning up the city'. The reality is, they find the most efficient way to dig through and don't care about throwing disposable trash all over to get the loot.

2. Hoarding. I've seen people's kitchens and basements filled with cans because they want to do it all in one shot or for some special occasion. It makes a mess and is super annoying. You like fruit flies? This is how you get fruit flies.

3. It's inefficient. People who have the means will still not care about collecting the deposit because it's a PITA to go down to the store with the empties. The only people who get excited about it are the same people who think a tax refund is actually a gift from the government..

While it might solve some of the above problems, you won't find much luck making deposits $1/bottle or something in the US because it's only going to make life more of a pain for the poor. It's not a workable solution.

Living in a country with a bottle deposit (Germany), I have never encountered any of the points you brought up.

Speaking of Norway - we've also dealt nicely with the plastic bag issue by having sturdy grocery bags that we subsequently also use as garbage bags (big black thrash bags aren't commonly used).

A few years ago the government suggested taxing plastic bags to gain revenue, but it was discarded since the environmental organizations concluded it would be bad for the environment (as more people would throw garbage directly into thrash cans/buy thrash bags).

Conversely my regional grocery store chain has recently switched to even thinner plastic bags. Used to be you could at least use them for trash, but now they're pretty much useless.

While I love the idea, I'd much rather see the money required to rollout a national deposit system go to expanding domestic and commercial recycling programs nationally. This includes subsidizing any costs with providing recycling bins as well as building and maintaining sorting centers.

deposit systems have a limited lifetime, the get killed by inflation. For example, glass beer bottles in GER have a deposit of 8 cent. This used to be 15 Pfennig, a pretty high amount when the deposit was introduced. But since you can't raise the deposit (bottles suddenly would raise in value) and inflation pushes down the purchasing power, even bottle collectors tend to leave glass bottles behind.

You can raise it. South Australia recently raised it from 5c to 10c.

In the specific case of Rwanda, it's also important to realize that the plastic ban, as well as the universally celebrated higher participation of women in administration and politics are also fantastic PR of the regime essentially aimed at the West.

Dictatorial regimes that implement actually beneficial policies I can tolerate. Less good than a democracy in terms of social and political freedom, but better than dictatorships that don't implement any benign policies.

That said my knowledge of African politics is limited to a few news articles a week so I can't form a meaningful opinion about how well or badly countries there are run except in really obvious cases like Zimbabwe.

> Dictatorial regimes that implement actually beneficial policies I can tolerate. Less good than a democracy in terms of social and political freedom, but better than dictatorships that don't implement any benign policies.

The policies are not really the problem actually, especially when they are, as you say, beneficial. In a perfect world where media coverage respects basic ethical rules of journalism, there shouldn't be any issue really. Unfortunately, in the case of Rwanda, I tend to see the magnifying glass systematically being put on 'favorable' PR-stuff like that, vs constitutional reform, mysterious disappearances of political dissidents of the regime (sometimes abroad), open support to militias in Congo. e.g: I wonder what someone on the receiving end of bullets in the Kivu region would think of the hagiographic article of the guardian.

Ultimately, the survival of most of this kind of regime depends heavily on the way they are perceived globally, undoubtedly, the Rwandan regime beautifully manufactures its image.

A bit OT, but interesting -

Smugglers work on the dark side of Rwanda’s plastic bag ban


Note: Thank you for down voting for pointing out a glaring 'fake statistics' and poor journalism, on a #1 trending post on HN.

The first and the second quote do not mean the same thing, not even close.

"A massive 60%t of the plastic waste in the oceans is said to have come from India, according to the Times of India."

The TOI reads - "Banning disposable plastic is a huge step for the capital and the country because India is among the top four biggest plastic polluters in the world, responsible for around 60% of the 8.8 million tons of plastic that is dumped into the world’s oceans every year."

As an Indian, I see a lot of journalists stuck in a colonial era. They go out of their way to tarnish and stereotype the great unwashed. They manage to turn even positive news to mock and heckle the less developed world.

But this article has taken it to great heights. The TOI isn't exactly known for journalistic integrity and often conveniently pulls statistics from their backside. But to misquote the devil, this article has certainly hit the lowest level.

"India, with 0.60 million tonnes per year of mismanaged plastic waste, is ranked 12th. China ranks no. 1 with 8.82 million tonnes per year of mismanaged plastic waste. There are 11 Asian and Southeast Asian countries in the list, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Burma."

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and- environment/india-pumps-600000-tonnes-of-plastic-waste-into-the-ocean-annually-science-journal/article6890568.ece

>But this article has taken it to great heights. The TOI isn't exactly known for journalistic integrity and often conveniently pulls statistics from their backside. But to misquote the devil, this article has certainly hit the lowest level.

I second this. We should just ban TOI links on hacker news.

Is their claim factually incorrect?

I think it might actually be factually incorrect. I looked up the Times Of India article that OP's article was referring to [1], and could not find a source on the biggest plastic polluters in the world.

Then, after searching around, the articles [2] and reports [3] that I found all put Indonesia (not India) in the top 5 polluters in the world. They refer to an authoritative source from Science [4], but I'm not able to access this due to the paywall.

I'm sure I'm doing something wrong. Surely the Times of India hasn't confused "Indonesia" for "India", right?

[1] http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/all-forms-of-disposable...

[2] http://www.audubon.org/news/these-5-countries-are-biggest-pl...

[3] PDF! http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/mckin...

[4] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768

The article claims - India contributes 60% of the plastic in the ocean.

From the Times of India (TOI) article that it refers to - "India is among the four largest contributor who in total contribute 60%". Which considering a journalist's honesty definitely means India is the fourth largest contributor, which would mean India at most contributes 15% of the waste.

That is a long way from the 60% claimed. Considering the reputation of TOI, even the milder claim is quite suspect.

Actually the wording on the sentence is bad, but they said the top 4 contribute to 60%, and claim India is among the top 4.

Hard to say definitively, but the claim seems likely to be wrong. According to this link, India is far from the worst offender.


Looks like it, Jambeck et al in Science 2015 rank India 12th for plastic waste input to the oceans.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1260352

The economist inside me says it would be better to tax disposable plastic.

The tax could cover the cost to clean up the litter. That would create jobs in three ways: 1) plastic clean-up jobs, 2) businesses and economic activity that desperately need disposable plastic can still possibly survive, and ) jobs making disposable plastic.

Anyways, it's a lot better than taxing things we all agree we want more of. Like jobs.

To be honest I hate this economic idea of enforcing a ban via adding tax to it. This ideology shows the lack of understanding of the disparity in income in India. The middle class and below are the most affected and they face the most brunt of all this.

The same goes with how the govt. keeps adding tax on tobacco and its products every year. Forcing people to stop smoking by not allowing them to buy despite allowing it to be sold in open market is just one way of violating ones freedom to choose. I do not support nor encourage smoking but I do not like the idea of forcing people to stop smoking by making it expensive, tobacco industry brings a lot of revenue to the govt, the govt just doesn't want to stop it so they enforce such taxes so the govt. earns the same but the intake by people is reduced. This isn't a win-win by any means. People will still die of cancer no matter how moderately they smoke. The problem isn't solved here its just reduced by probably 10% but the revenue from it is still 100%.

Dunno I am all for tobacco being expensive. Soon most poor people will no longer be able to afford them. Which is a good thing to me.

I am pretty sure a lot of people will just reduce other expenses to compensate. At least for as long as they can. That just means most of the money goes to tobacco companies instead of anything else they would have spent it on.

I think I agree with vidyesh, taxes are for money not for changing social behavior.

>I am pretty sure a lot of people will just reduce other expenses to compensate. At least for as long as they can.

We don't have to idly speculate this, the phenomenon is called elasticity of demand in economics, and not only are there good estimates of elasticity for various products, there's a rich set of ideas that have been developed around elasticity, including what happens when you tax goods of various elasticities.

I highly recommend looking into the details yourself (any intro micro economics textbook will cover it), but the upshot is that cigarettes judged to have relatively inelastic demand, which is basically what you had said. This means that a tax on the product will not reduce the equilibrium quantity consumed by very much. A corollary is that the majority of the tax burden will fall on the consumers of cigarettes. I'm not sure why you said "most of the money goes to the tobacco companies"-- with all tax levels the revenue goes to the government.

Yeah the government gets the money. I hadn't thought it out completely while I was typing and just put what popped into my head.

I did take some form of economics in school but it's not something I really had a heavy interest in but I understand how it's useful.

> To be honest I hate this economic idea of enforcing a ban via adding tax to it. This ideology shows the lack of understanding of the disparity in income in India. The middle class and below are the most affected and they face the most brunt of all this.

A ban just means everyone feels the same level of pain as the poor--so net, more pain--without the gains of tax revenue.

> The problem isn't solved here its just reduced by probably 10%

A tax is about internalizing the negative externalities. If we price in the cost of cancer (and the hyperbolic discounting of my cancer being way of in the future), and I still decide it's worth it to me, then let me smoke in exchange for funding public health initiatives that will fully offset the societal cost.

Local governments in India (mostly all of them) tax disposable plastic already.

Then the tax was not high enough. The role of government should not be to use heavy-handed rules that arbitrarily distort market and place limits on freedoms. It can work out better for everyone to govern the externalities of human behaviour through market incentives. Everyone can win in that situation. People that still really need disposable plastic can still buy it if they need it that much. In other words, there is a price equilibrium where the cost of plastic pollution to society is less than the revenue generated by plastic goods consumption.

One of my favourite examples of this concept is marijuana laws in Colorado. 1 BB in gov rev, 200 MM in tax rev alone. Less spent on law enforcement. Less crime due to a black market. Less innocents in jail that are spending tax dollars instead of producing them. Everyone wins except the DEA and prison system.

edit, source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/marijuana-tax-revenue-hit-2...

> People that still really need disposable plastic can still buy it if they need it that much. In other words, there is a price equilibrium where the cost of plastic pollution to society is less than the revenue generated by plastic goods consumption.

Your theory is correct, but you're not taking into account that, in Delhi, it's far easier (read: cheaper) to enforce a ban on the sale/use than it is to ensure tax compliance.

Delhi proper is twice the population of Colorado, and the metro area has four times the population of Colorado. Combine that with a relatively porous implementation of laws, and it's just way easier to go for a complete ban.

>Your theory is correct, but you're not taking into account that, in Delhi, it's far easier (read: cheaper) to enforce a ban on the sale/use than it is to ensure tax compliance.

I don't want to believe it, but unfortunately I think you are correct. Too many times utopian policies are made unrealistic by human nature.

> Too many times utopian policies are made unrealistic by human nature

Agreed. But a less cynical way of thinking about it: Just think of it as a second-order model, with an additional equilibrium factor to consider. What is the cost of complying with the policy, traded off against the risk and expense of getting caught?

That's not actually a factor unique to Delhi; it just happens that the risk of getting caught and the expected expense[0] is a lot less than the expected risk/cost of getting caught for not paying Colorado sales and excise taxes on marijuana.

[0] which can include social engineering or bribery

> Just think of it as a second-order model, with an additional equilibrium factor to consider.

I think that has clear, pragmatic value. That's the perspective which exists in academic economics. However, I feel that there has to be some point where we just have had enough and say, people need to stop being so awful? Or, at the end of the other side of the spectrum, perhaps we should live in a world where everyone is legally selling each other their organs--there's a balance in there somewhere where we need to have a certain faith in humanity.

If you make tax too high then people would steal. They would buy without receipts etc. Better to ban inflow of plastic consignments of plastic, close plastic factories in city limits and keep a tab on businesses. It works decently in Bangalore.

> The tax could cover the cost to clean up the litter. That would create jobs in three ways: 1) plastic clean-up jobs, 2) businesses and economic activity that desperately need disposable plastic can still possibly survive, and ) jobs making disposable plastic.

Enforcement of a ban will likely come through a fine, which will have the same effect. Think of the ban as a very large excise tax. Plus, the ban only applies to certain plastics, not all plastics - you could tax those at a reasonable rate for revenue.

Secondly, you don't really need to pay people to do cleanup. The very poor in India already rummage for plastic material and recycle that as a means of income. The problem is that, before the ban, the amount of material disposed was too high. Once you stop the inflow of new trash, cleaning up the rest is pretty tractable.

This also happens in New York City. On trash day people will systematically rummage through the garbage that is placed on the curbs and pull out all recyclable plastic bottles and cans:


Yes, that happens everywhere that practices bottle deposit refunds. But what I'm talking about goes even further - people will rummage plastic bags, even, which I've never seen in NYC or the US at all.

We're talking about a place that got rid of entire cash denominations to help them collect income tax. They can't even come close to enforcing their existing tax laws. What makes you think they could enforce new ones?

Not a huge fan of outright bans, and think this is probably the wrong priority for India to focus on. (I understand this is just Delhi)

Air pollution is huge right now. And sad to say, people pooping in streets and rivers is still a major problem.

To me, plastic remnants are a very minor issue in comparison.

But a ban on plastic bags is easy, it is quick and immediate. Whereas the other problems you mention may take decades, if ever, to solve. At least they're doing something. And it's not like the people enforcing the ban would be the same people who would otherwise install air and water filtration systems. If there's anything India does have in abundance, it's manpower.

Even if you poop in your fancy bungalow toilet, it does end up in the rivers, along with detergent and toxic toilet cleaners.

Banning disposable plastic and non biodegradable detergents would go a great way in letting microbes and plants do their job in cleaning up the environment.

With plastics not clogging up the rivers and chemicals not killing all river life, the rivers would definitely run much cleaner. This move was incidentally meant to curb air pollution, so clean rivers or oceans are an added benefit.

> Even if you poop in your fancy bungalow toilet, it does end up in the rivers, along with detergent and toxic toilet cleaners.

Wastewater should be treated. And at least if you concentrate all the waste into one place, you greatly reduce the spread of infectious diseases spread by untreated waste.

Also, your children tend not to be stunted. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sanjay-wijesekera/why-are-indi...

> along with detergent and toxic toilet cleaners.

don't forget corpses


Corpses are biodegradable aren't they unless, it is that of superman.

Good protein feed for the fish, birds, crocodiles. Instead of taking up real estate.

Not when you eat the animals that eat corpses afterwards. That's how you spread diseases, plus when animals eat human flesh, they leave bits floating in the water supply.

We bury people for a reason. Or we burn them, or leave them on the land to get eaten by animals, away from water supplies. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_burial)

The difference between what you're proposing is the difference between composting an animal corpse and then using it to fertilize your crops, or just grinding it up and spraying it all over your tomatoes.

This feels like a piece of "what-about-ism". Certainly there are other environmental issues facing India -- but that doesn't mean that this one isn't worth dealing with either.

This was affecting air pollution, from 2nd and 3rd paragraph: India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) introduced the ban following complaints of illegal burning of plastic and other waste at three local rubbish dumps. The ban took effect on the first day of 2017.

The illegal burning of waste was said to have been contributing to air pollution, which is a major problem in India.

Does a software company focus on improving just one aspect of their software or during any time progress is made on several fronts? Why is it that governments (specially the ones in developing countries) are expected to make progress in only one front when there are more specialised departments for each areas?

What will be the effect in air pollution when burning plastic garbage is replaced with things like paper garbage and the poor return their glass bottles because it gives them $$$?

Cans are actually more energy efficient to produce and recycle.

I don't think that's the case. Sturdy glass bottles can simply be washed a few dozen times before they wear out, whereas aluminum cans must be melted down and remade.

Sorry, I was talking about glass recycling vs can recycling.

Yes, washing glass is quite a bit more economical than glass recycling. We do the whole glass deposit thing in Germany where I grew up.

(The deposit is actually pretty clever: if you are rich enough not to care, you can just leave your bottle anywhere, and someone else with more time but less money will pick it up sooner or later.)

Yes but Delhi currently has a clown for a Chief minister. He comes up with notorious schemes like this. Recently he came up with odd-even rule for traffic and with clever exemptions for women, taxies and what not leading to a complete failure.

Water logging is a big issue in Mumbai and perhaps there this policy was useful.

Delhi's air pollution is not because of Delhi but because of surrounding areas. Nothing can be done there.

I do not see any coverage in Indian media. Could it be one of those official notifications which public at large hardly follows but it breeds corruption by enforcement officials. Though looking at Indian papers I came across this rather frightening news:


The ban has been active in Bangalore since March, 2016 [1] and in Mangalore for much longer [2]

I was surprised to learn Delhi did not have such a ban so far

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/Total-plas...

[2] http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/mangalore-bans...

>The ban has been active in Bangalore since March, 2016 [1] and in Mangalore for much longer [2]

It is not enforced though. I'm living in Bangalore and shopkeepers still give me plastic bags all the time. Banning something, or passing a law is only half the battle; enforcing them is the real issue. And you cannot enforce the laws because corruption is so wide and rampant in India that nothing can be done about it, or so it feels.

That is how India rolls. I am not sure how the poor street food vendors survive if they cant use plastic plates and spoons. If they are forced to use steel plates and spoons that is a health and safety nightmare in India.

There are plenty of cost effective traditional alternatives. Banana leaves, hand made leaf plates, machine made leaf plates, in the worst case paper plates.

Plastics are just convenient and cheap, if the environmental costs are not considered.

Edible cutlery http://www.bakeys.com/

Banana leaves may be traditional and popular in southern India where banana grows aplenty. In Delhi banana leaves would be used in chic restaurants with traditional touch. It is no way going to be used by street vendors.

I have normally seen steel plates/spoon used by street vendors. Not very hygienic as they just rinse in water after use.

When I visited Nepal, a lot of the street vendors had these bowls made of leaves (perhaps banana leaf, not really sure). I have no idea if they are financially better off or cost effective but thought I'd mention that I've seen something like this before.

Street phuchka vendors in Kolkata (they are what you call golgappas in Delhi) will hand you bowls made out of sal leaves. I wonder if that's the same as what you came across?


That looks vaguely right. I remember it being a bit more richer green look to it but the shape and everything looks about right.

Yeah, that's when they're fresh.

I think using dried leaves saves the trouble of having to pick them off the tree because they just fall to the ground, but I'm a city boy and wouldn't know for sure. Might have to ask my father! :)

I buy it on regular basis for religious functions as we don't use plastic in religious ceremonies to the extent possible. These alternatives are nearly 3 times more expensive and availability is a real issue. Not to mention the environmental impact of breaking branches of trees to get leaves quickly.

Yeah, many of bowls/plates are made up of mango tree leaves. All my childhood I have eaten village feasts on those leaves plates and earthen bowls for gravy/yogurt.

North india also uses leaf plates, which upon usage, are normally disposed by feeding them to cattle (in villages, this is very common)

Your idea of "cost effective" is quite different from an Indian street vendor.

Many of those alternatives are significantly more expensive than plastic and might be simply unavailable in Delhi.

Betel leaves work for the Pann wallah, but I'm not sure I want my pekoras the same way...

You have it backwards... the poor vendors can't afford a stock of disposable plates. They're the ones who give you something into the hand, or on a tin plate. You have to remember what "poor" means there.

>>If they are forced to use steel plates and spoons that is a health and safety nightmare in India.

This is one more of those things which we as current generation kids have grown into.

When I was a kid traditional muslim marriages used glass tumblers in marriage lunches. Which used be rinsed in a common drum by guy who would have barely bathed in a month. I remember we barely used to fall ill in those days. We used to play in mud, eat mangoes plucked from trees, spun out glass sharpened thread for kites, play marbles, eat tamarind from trees and drink from the municipal tap in the playground.

We mixed with dirt and infection is a way our immune systems were trained well.

Today apparently people can't walk across the street without catching cold.

As a anecdote, only recently I visited a house warming ceremony they were only rinsing plates(not washing) after each batch finished eating. To make it worse, people were washing their hands post lunch at the same place they were rinsing. The cafeteria lunch eating sterile programmer in me refused to even eat there. But every other person who was there, including my own family had no problems at all.

Its just a frame of mind.

> We mixed with dirt and infection is a way our immune systems were trained well.

Immunity to natural infections is different. In places like Delhi or Mumbai a lot of water sources are polluted by some serious chemical toxins like mercury, arsenic and what not.

It's been quite some time I ate at street vendors there. In past they would invariably have steel plates/spoons and wash after use. I imagine at least in past it was quite cheaper as compare to plastic/paper wares.

They could use the cups or plates made from leaves - it is called dona/donnai in India, I am not sure what it is exactly made of.

one of the road side sweet corn shacks, was giving throwaway steel spoons (thicker and stiffer than aluminium foil, but super thin). It felt weird throwing it in trash.

I think there's been a noticable difference due to this rule. Including change in people's behavior (in using plastic bags)

The Indian media doesn't care about reality, they want drama and sentimentalization.

This is India. Starving, thirsty, injured (hit by cars and trucks) cows and dogs roam the streets, hobbling along, limping along. There are people starving on the street-side. The poorest children are openly prostituted on the streets.

How are they going to enforce a rule regarding plastic bags?

The rich will continue to do whatever they want.

The middle-classes will continue to do whatever they can get away with.

The poor will continue to be shit on and abused.


About 20 years ago they banned smoking in public in Delhi (I was there when they did it).

All that this ordinance did was to give the police yet another angle to harass people. More corruption. More bribes.

Public Smoking ban has been largely effective in India. You rarely see people smoking in public areas. The effectiveness of these laws are that it allows concerned citizens to raise their voice when they see law is being broken.

> it allows concerned citizens to raise their voice when they see law is being broken

How exactly do concerned citizens raise their voice in India? I once saw a stray dog that had been run over by a car licking its wounds, waiting to die. After which it would lay there on the road-side until it had been eaten by birds and insects. I wanted to raise awareness of my various concerns about this. How should I have gone about it? Genuinely interested in learning from you.

An aside: the stoic, pious strength I saw on the dog's face as it licked itself, knowing it was dying, was one of the most powerful things I've ever seen.

> How exactly do concerned citizens raise their voice in India?

In general, much the same as other countries. Call/write/meet with your municipal corporation member/MLA/MP (though it's doubtful you'll get an audience unless you have an in). Call/write/meet with the opposition party members, if it's something that can make the party in power look bad. Post on social media. If it's newsworthy, there's a very noisy (and competitive) print and TV media willing to listen to you. I'm not saying all these are effective options, but they _are_ options.

> I wanted to raise awareness of my various concerns about this. How should I have gone about it? Genuinely interested in learning from you.

You could've tried to take it to a vet. My friends and I did this once with a kitten that got run over. It died before we made it unfortunately. Ofc, there's probably a greater risk of being bitten by a panicky dog that's in pain, than with a kitten (my friend got bitten).

I would have to disagree. I travel by public transport and I see plenty of people smoking at the bus stands and railway stations.

Smoking in public seems a bit extreme, but for instance smoking in bars/restaurants was introduced in the country where I lived first in 2006 and tightened in 2011 but a lot of bars still just kept doing it. Especially in small villages. Until some of them were fined; the fines are so high that they basically have to close and have debts after that. Even for 'rich' people this is a too much. Since a few of those were made public, no-one dares to do it anymore. But in public seems ... very hard to enforce.

So one would think, with plastic, just fine the people giving/selling the plastic bags. If you give/sell a non degradable plastic bag it has to carry a return deposit of $25 per bag or you get fined, as a shop, $200k. Plastic bags will be gone in no time flat. Far easier to enforce and too rich, also for the rich. Good for companies and the world as they can sell paper bags and biodegradable bags.

There are people starving on the street sides in San Francisco and every major US downtown.

There are starving, thirsty people in every major city in the US.

This has nothing to do with enforcing ban on plastics.

The parent's larger point is apathy. This is very widespread in India, to an extent people don't bother about anything at all until they are personally affected by an issue, by that time they cry victim start blaming governments, neighbors, society et al for not doing enough.

Near my home, people are so deeply into this phenomenon they won't contribute a signature to a list, for a letter of request to fix sanitation, or roads, or a street light. I've even been told by the local Municipal engineer why is that its always me who raises these issues, and if its really so important why don't others speak up. Things came down to a point, when I had to take precautions to fix things for myself. It turns out larger sanitation broke down in a year or two, then all of a sudden my neighbors wanted me to spend all my time working taking off from work to work for them while they relax at home.

We call this 'Chalta hai' attitude in India. Which basically translates to 'works fine for now'.

If we are getting into the root cause it is not apathy but resignation.

Chalta hai attitude is because a person cannot make any change - in government, family or society - without putting their lives at risk. This is equivalent to asking someone in the US to make changes when it comes to healthcare sector or electoral funding.

Once you have fought enough battles and lost you grow weary of anyone trying to bring about a change. This is the same resignation seen in the parent's comment about nothing in India changing - they have absolutely no way to make any impact and they have resigned

That still has nothing to do with police's ability or willingness to enforce ban on plastics.

>>Chalta hai attitude is because a person cannot make any change - in government, family or society - without putting their lives at risk.


Simple things like not throwing trash on streets, or starting early for office(to avoid driving rashly on roads), or voting in elections, or ensuring you have tree outside your home. Most things are completely harmless.

What risk are you taking by not throwing garbage on streets?

In fact this is the very thing 'Chalta hai' stands for. People make excuses for why they can't, instead of looking for reasons for why they can.

>>Once you have fought enough battles and lost you grow weary of anyone trying to bring about a change.

Most people I've met around my home are like want to sit down and relax when somebody else works for them.

Easy way to describe these people is they are 'lazy'.

Let's call them what they are, instead of making it look like they are moving mountains to make things happen, and the real culprit is some threat or risk from society.

This is great news! I have a question maybe someone from Delhi could answer, the article states:

"The ban took effect on the first day of 2017."

What are the vendors doing? Is water being sold in glass bottles with a deposit scheme for redemption now?

I'm not from Delhi, but similar ban has been in effect in south India for many years now. Water/soda bottles are not included in the ban, it is usually the shopping bag and eating utensils like cups and plates.

As the article says, the ban includes bags, cups and cutlery.

I'm curious to know this as well. It would be cool if they implemented this in the U.S., even if only for the return to dominance of the glass bottle soda.

It interesting in many places in South America glass bottles are the norm, they get sterilized and reused. You see crates of them stacked up outside the kioskos waiting to be picked up. You pay a deposit on the bottle and get a redemption when you return it. This isn't a new development either, its just kind of the way its always been. I am not sure why plastic didn't become as dominant in many of those countries.

This is extremely interesting, I wonder what it would take to get this implemented in the United States?

I think just a shift in mentality and a bit of legislation. This would actually be a shift back in the United States really. There was a time when milk and soft drinks came in glass bottles as a matter of course. Its actually good for companies bottom lines as well. This from a Coca Cola earning's call:

"Returnable bottles all the rage You may remember a time when you went to the grocery store and bought returnable glass bottles of Coca-Cola, Sprite, or the mostly forgotten Tab brand. After you finished with the bottles you returned them to the store for a deposit refund. In the United States, the last of the 6.5 ounce returnable bottles were finished during October 2012 at a bottling facility in Minnesota. In Latin America the returnable bottles continue and contribute greatly to Coca-Cola FEMSA's top line growth in every geographic region. In Mexico, returnable packages grew 5%. Affordability and the desire to reduce environmental impact increased consumer appeal. Latin Americans, specifically Mexicans, faced with a shrinking pocketbook remain keen on ways to save money. Coca-Cola FEMSA wants to invest more in returnables to appease consumers' increasingly frugal nature."

I'm of the opinion that beverages actually taste better from bottles, thats part of the magic of the "Mexican Coke"(along with using real sugar as opposed to corn syrup.)



I didn't notice any change. Just today I purchased grapes and the vendor gave me them in a polythene bag.

I wish that they could find a way to do this in the Islamabad/Rawalpindi area. Due to a lack of budget and government coordination for large scale trash pick up, nearly every stream and ravine in the area is the designated trash dumping grounds. It's thoroughly littered with plastic shopping bags and plastic bottles. It won't solve the problem of people throwing trash on nearly any available piece of unclaimed or unusable land, but at least it'll be paper based or biodegradable.

This is awesome. When I was in India ten years ago, everywhere we went in rural India the trees along creeks, rivers and streams were littered with plastic bags from where floods had deposited them. They were like leaves, and the trees were dead. They had already banned plastic bags locally in that province, and it is good to see a global ban on plastic in general.

In Himachal Pradesh, the plastic bag ban had resulted in a cottage industry forming where discarded newspapers were folded/glued into shopping bags. I'd like to see this same thing happen in the US. A friend imported a palette of these bags to Florida, and he was able to sell them to vendors and make a small profit. This tells me they might be viable here commercially.

As they say, reduce > re-use > recycle.

Plastic is the least of Delhi's problems. First they should be banning vehicles that don't meet emission standards. I visited there twice and I'll be lucky if I don't come down with some lung problem.

Edit: They should ban the burning of plastic, not plastic itself. And enforce it.

Your comment comes off as harsh and ignorant, but is IS a fact that pollution from two stroke engines (and other inefficient burning things) is a huge problem in large developing nation cities. Go look at the air in Lahore or Karachi on a bad day and view the blue-grey smoke emitting from every two stroke motorcycle and motor-rickshaw.

These countries will benefit immeasurably when electric/battery scooters are cheap, efficient, and superior in every way to their unbelievably noisy two-stroke counterparts. It's amazing that one dinky little vehicle can make so much pollution and racket.

Leaf blowers used to be exclusively crappy two-stroke engines that would make a huge racket. Now at least there's a lot of electric competition.

It's going to take a while. Unfortunately there is still a huge gap in terms of energy density and $ per kilojoule or Wh stored between a $650 (equivalent value in PKR or INR currency) two stroke motorcycle, and an electric motorcycle with equivalent engine power and range. Just the batteries for a decent electric motorcycle alone cost 8x more than a typical developing nation locally manufactured motorcycle or motor-rickshaw.

Power distribution would be a problem (well it already is) with the uptake of electric vehicles - although I'd imagine if solar panels get cheap enough everyone could have one at home and just swap a spare battery in over night. Fuel is already quite expensive in India (around the same price as Europe), so it might not be that long a wait.

Power distribution will always be a problem until power distribution is no longer a factor, solar will generate power locally.

Fuel prices go up, solar prices go down, it's inevitable those two will cross and you'll be burning money by using a two stroke bike.

No matter what we do it will never wipe away your prejudice, my friend.

Prejudice is an unfavorable opinion formed without knowledge, thought, or reason. The worsening air quality as a result of vehicular emissions in Delhi is very well documented and will have serious consequences if it is not dealt with seriously. It's not a matter of opinion.


I fail to see what the above has to do with prejudice, personally. Poor air quality is a problem in many parts of the world, notably so in developing areas.

The prejudice seems to be "ah India, nice try but you still fail badly in an unrelated area" while in fact in this regard Delhi is more progressive than much of Europe and the US.

Reducing plastic waste is a step in the right direction and should not be dismissed just because there are other problems that may be harder to fix right now.

>"ah India, nice try but you still fail badly in an unrelated area"

That's not what a prejudice is. It's also not what he said. Maybe if people wouldn't be so hypersensitive we could address the problems a country might be facing. India has many issues.

So what if he points that out, while we're discussing a different issue? It's part of having a conversation.

Good points. Would we have the same conversation about the US though? "Electric cars taking over?" - "Wow but pollution due to fracking is a way bigger problem!"

While prejudice is not probably the correct interpretation, the GPs post reads like "don't ban plastic until air pollution is fixed". Any improvement is better than nothing.

Vehicle emissions (and other air pollution) are a problem all over the world. The USA and especially California now have reasonably tight emissions control standards, but Los Angeles used to have horrid smog, to the point children would be told not to go outside to play on the worst days. Now after public outrage followed by well enforced regulatory changes, it’s much better.

In general, a relatively small percentage of older vehicles produce a huge proportion of auto emissions. If governments can enforce regular emissions tests and pull the offending vehicles off the road, it makes an enormous difference to air quality.

India has the worst air pollution in the world. It's not prejudiced to say so.


What does criticizing air pollution have to do with prejudice?

OP is conflating pollution with his own identity, so an attack on pollution is a personal attack against him and his people.

Haha. Cleaner air takes perceptions a long way =).

Air pollution caused by vehicles and industry is not a subjective matter of prejudice. It is fact.

Banning it is one thing, we'll see if they can actually enforce it.

If Rwanda can enforce it, I don't see why Delhi can't.


Rwanda is a pint-sized dictatorship governed with an iron first. Delhi is a howling cesspit of chaos.

In addition to the obvious enforcement problems in Delhi itself, Delhi is only a small part of the National Capital Region, meaning tons of plastic will flow in from Haryana and UP even if Delhi does manage to clean up its act.

I think one reason could be because Delhi doesn't have it's own border control? But yea I get it, there are lots of things that can be done to enforce it.

Amen to that. I feel the same whenever I see a news along the lines of "India has banned ${something-that-sounds-nice}". Indian (and State) govt(s) need to start enforcing what they say.

If you are not using reusable bags when going to the grocery store (or any store) please attempt to try it.

It absolutely amazing how many more groceries you can put in a reusable bag over a plastic or paper bags. So at the bare minimum it is an optimization (less trips from car to kitchen).

When I bring this up with people I get unbelievable false rationalization like: I reuse the bags for trash or the reusable bags take 100x to make over plastic bags.

Plastic grocery bags have knack of flying into lakes, rivers and streams. I have saved many turtles and fish a long the Charles river that are caught in these bags. I have never seen a kitchen trash bag or a reusable bag in the river.

Many grocery stores even give a discount if you use reusable bags not to mention reusable bags are extremely cheap (I don't think I have ever paid more than $2).

Here in England, we recently introduced a tax on all "single-use" plastic grocery bags located in "large" supermarkets (so, all the common ones) of 50p per bag. The reusable, stronger, larger bags that one can keep in the boot (trunk) cost only twice that, and pay for themselves after only 1 supermarket trip.

I have four of them -- they also stack inside of each other, so only take up the space of one. I know several people that refuse to use them and keep getting multiple single-use bags and paying another £2.50 or so every time they go shopping. It boggles the mind!

I am pretty sure this would lead to this. Bangalore already has this ban and most grocery stores use disposables or use biodegradable plastic. In Mumbai(Bombay), every plastic bag costs INR 3 to buy from grocer. This works well in large shops but not so much in mom and pop who give it for free

When it comes to banning plastic bags, India takes the lead & not just Delhi; cities like Mumbai, Karwar, Tirumala, Vasco, Rajasthan all have a ban on the bag though enforcement is questionable. Where as rural villages such as 'Mawlynnong' has not only banned the plastic bags but also got the title of 'Asia's cleanest village', there are other such villages in India. It should be commended that, villages which hosts majority of population with lower economic backgrounds are doing their part to protect their environment even when it's much difficult for them to do so than their counterparts in the cities who usually don't need to worry about whether their children get to eat today.

Exactly. Plastic has been banned (and not being used) in various cities in India. A lot of popular tourist places (Hampi, Ooty comes to mind) have 'no plastic bags' policy.

All too often it seems US restaurants do the quick calculus of going 100% disposable cutelry/etc, making a decision we'll still be dealing with 50 years from now....

I am very supportive of these types programs, even if hard to enforce.

Passing a rule is very easy in India as opposed to the enforcement or people following that. However in this case majority of the source are commercial outlets which is relatively less difficult to enforce .

Various forms of plastic bans keep getting imposed year after year in different places in India.

Nothing practically happens because:

a. Police has better things to do than round up people and shops carrying plastic bags. They may probably take a bribe from the shop to turn a blind eye.

b. There's no really low cost and convenient alternative in many cases - in spite of a lot of shops in India using recycled newspapers for packaging.

Home delivery which is widespread among the richer classes is at least partially helpful since shops bring things in their own bags. However most of India is not rich

I think you are being knowingly stupid here. Bangalore has plastic ban and works very well. It does not apply to people but enforced by BBMP (municipal corporation) on businesses to either not use plastic or to use biodegradeable one. It works very well. I do not come across much plastic here

Don't know which part of Bangalore you live in. But where I'm right now I still see shops using plastic bags. And I haven't seen Bangalore become any cleaner after the supposed ban.

The ban has limitations on the thickness of the plastic bags used. Garbage bags etc are still allowed.Over the last few months the plastic cups/plates etc have almost disappeared from the city. Himachal has such a ban for over 10 years now and has had really positive effects.

I get plastic bags from shopkeepers in Bangalore all the freaking time. Sometimes I've had to refuse taking the bag and simple carried stuff in my hand.

What are they going to replace plastic with ? Can you invent a kind of material that is as capable as plastic but has zero negative effects on the environment ?

Wash and reuse steel cutlery? (I know people who carry little tins with forks, spoons and chopsticks they can assemble and reuse).

Seattle has a plastic bag ban and you can use paper bags or just bring you own reusable bags.

Bottled water in developed nations is typically less regulated (and has a lower quality) than tap water. This doesn't apply to India of course, but maybe this will force Delhi to seriously fix their municipal water supply to world standards. Even if it doesn't, most homes and restaurants have water filters, and people can simply carry reusable bottles even plastic ones (the disposable variety are what's banned).

I just eat with my bare hands.

We lived without plastic for a long time. There are many different things that can replace it depending on the product. For example, we had glass bottles for a very long time and we washed them and reused them. You can use reusable bags at the store. Wash metal silverware.

I'm sure plastic will always have to be used for certain things, but if we can limit the amount that's great.

It's not that it needs to be equally capable in each way - you need something that is more degradable and ecologically sensible for each specific case.

Or, in some cases, reusable. Most places in the US that have banned disposable plastic grocery bags are encouraging reusable bags.

Some chains had been giving discounts for "bring-your-own-bag" even before the outright bag ban. Sprouts still does!

Biodegradable alternatives already exist: http://www.ecoproductsstore.com

It is also banned in Lucknow, a beautiful city in Indian state Uttar Pradesh.It is a good move.Although govt. should invest more in R&D in order to find environment friendly alternative.Street food sellers who deal in liquid edibles had to raise their prices in order to use current plastic alternatives which are currently clay and glass.

It's great. But the 'trash problem' in India runs deeper.

They need to have anti-litter regulation, awareness campaigns, and enforcement.

Its in progress: Swachh Bharat (Clean India) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swachh_Bharat_Abhiyan

Here in California single use plastic bags are banned. Now it's a pain, at checkout you either have to tell them how many multiuse bags to charge or bring bags from home.

No so many years ago paper bags were common and what I used. Paper is great, it's biodegradable, renewable, and convenient.

It's really not a pain. Every store sells paper bags at 10¢ a bag.

I live in California too, and it's not a pain at all for me.

Good in principle, will cause hardships for many in practice. There are probably millions of street vendors who rely on plastic to pack food to go, as well as many other shops of course.

There are many other priorities to focus on which can have a far bigger impact.

Three questions: 1) what will replace plastic for convenience products ( aka single serving consumables )? 2) are there organizations championing this effort elsewhere? 3) where can i read more facts about Delhi's efforts?

I don't see this being implemented. At least none of the friends and family have reported this is being implemented. Folks from India - anyone have a different feedback and they heard this is really being implemented?

Let's just hope that this is implemented in an ordered way. We all remember what happened to Delhi in the last Diwali celebration even after having so much of law against firecrackers.

Bangalore did this 3-4 years back. I had trouble getting disposable bags even in rural KA.

>The ban includes bags, cups and cutlery.

What about all the plastic containers the food originally came in?

Those increase longevity on the shelves. Plastic food packaging is usually a net win because of the waste it prevents. Glad they didn't ban that.

I don't understand how we can build self-driving cars, send people to the moon, and create advanced facial recognition software, but can't build technology that can separate plastic bags?

Recognizing a plastic bag is tech on par with two of the techs you list (and arguably beyond sending a man to the moon.) Making a robot that can recognize plastic bags and manipulate them is harder. And applying that level of expertise to a public works problem in a capitalist society is even harder.

(In response to the obvious counterargument; the configuration space of "a plastic bag mixed in with a bunch of random junk" is actually probably larger than the configuration space for a road with a dozen other cars on it, and so is the action space of a reasonably dextrous claw/arm greater than that of a car. AI is full of easy-sounding things that are really difficult.)

Oh, you can probably make it work. The question is: can you make it work cheap enough? Sending people to the moon wasn't cheap..

Doesn't solve the issue of plastic bags littering the streets.

We have a plastic bag ban where I live and it's great.

no more plastic trash bags... and of course no more using grocery bags as trash bags...

Hopefully it is enforced.

Can we get the title changed to make it clear that India banned plastic in Delhi not all of India.

Also the title says "literally all disposable plastic" then in the article it says applies to cups, bags, cutlery.

I just read three different articles on this subject and it's not clear if disposable plastic bottles (bottles, not cups) are also banned. I'd argue this is one of the bigger problems as displayed by some of the images used in the articles, and personal experiences of travelling india and seeing miles of train tracks littered with plastic bottles.

The reason I mention this is that it may be directing action to local vendors, but not necessarily regional/national drink vendors.

For those absurdly curious in trying to find an original source on the proposal/ruling, this is the closest I've found so far: http://bspcb.bih.nic.in/NGT%20Judgemt%20dt%2022.12.2016%20in...

- skip to point #23 on page 63 for the thing about banning plastic:

"We further direct that the use of disposable plastic glasses is prohibited in entire NCT, Delhi at hotels, restaurants and public as well as private functions. The NCT, Delhi shall take appropriate steps against storage, sale and use of such plastic material at above places and it shall stand prohibited w.e.f. 01st of January, 2017."

Note that this still mentions more about plastic cups, not bottles.

Thanks, we've updated the submission title to a representative phrase from the article.

Title should probably mention that the plastic banned is disposable bags, cups, and cutlery. Not IV bags, syringes, laptops, bike helmets, etc..

Or maybe find a better article source? Maybe a good local Dehli paper?

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