Did you know that nearly a month, India's National Capital Region—a massive swath of land that includes the nation's capital territory, Delhi—outlawed disposable plastic? On Jan. 1, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) enacted a ban on one-time use items such as plastic grocery bags and cups for the region's 54 million inhabitants, the world's second largest urban agglomeration.
The Delhi government was ordered to "take steps for storage and use of plastic materials with effect from January 1, 2017."
As Fast Company reports, three waste-to-energy plants in Delhi were singled out for the air pollution they caused from burning plastic waste:
"Delhi's three main trash dumps—Okhla, Gazipur and Bhalswa—are 'a depiction of mess that can be created for environment and health of people of Delhi,' said India's National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Swatanter Kumar at the tribunal.
"Delhi uses waste-to-energy plants to produce electricity, and when those plants burn plastic waste, they spew pollution into the air. And if it isn't burned, the plastic ends up clogging the Yamuna, the second largest tributary river of the Ganges."
The plants will be fined around $7,300 for each act of non-compliance.
Many have questioned how easy it will be to enforce such an order. Shopkeepers and street vendors found themselves unprepared and even unaware of the ban.
"Instead of targeting us, the authorities should stop the factories that make these items," an unnamed stationery shop owner in Meherchand Market told The Hindu. "We have already started keeping cloth bags instead of plastic ones, but we haven't been able to fully stop using plastic as customers ask for it."
Environmentalists, however, have applauded the ban.
"These plastic materials end up clogging drains and some make their way into the Yamuna. There are several studies that prove how dangerous this is. The order of the NGT was much needed, but its implementation will be key," forestry and wildlife expert Manoj Misra told the same publication.
India's latest plastic ban cannot come soon enough. A 2015 study ranked India as the 12th biggest plastic polluter in the world, but expected it to bump up to No. 5 as its economy grows.