Bahn and Air India do without single-use plastic

New Delhi (dpa) – In India, the railways and the state airline Air India do without single-use plastic. The two innovations are part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to ban single-use plastic entirely in his country by 2022.

At the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Indian founding father and freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi, Modi said: “Cleanliness, environmental protection and animal welfare – these three things were particularly important to Gandhi, and plastic is the greatest danger to these three.”

The Indian government had originally considered banning some plastic items entirely from Wednesday. These plans were then rejected after talks with the plastics industry, according to the Ministry of the Environment in New Delhi. The industry would have warned of job losses and higher prices for consumer goods.

To encourage people to use plastic more sustainably, there are now recycling stations for plastic bottles in 4,000 Indian train stations, as a train spokesman said. In addition, plastic crockery and cutlery will be collected and recycled on trains in the future. Shops in the train stations are no longer allowed to sell goods wrapped in single-use plastic or use plastic bags. If they did that anyway, there would be penalties in the future, said the spokesman.

At Air India , food will in future be served in wax-coated paper plates and cups instead of tableware made of disposable plastic. You should eat with wooden cutlery. “The paper dishes are then thrown away,” said a spokesman for the airline.

However, environmental protection organizations warn that there are still many plastic substitutes around the world that are no better for the environment today. “When it comes to production, paper dishes generally have a worse ecological balance than plastic dishes,” said garbage expert Swati Sambyal from the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi. So you need more CO2 to produce, which is bad for the climate.

It is best to avoid single-use products wherever possible, said speaker Rolf Buschmann from the Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation. It should also be ensured – for example through good collection systems – that as little plastic as possible gets into nature and is eaten by animals.

In India , however, millions of tons of plastic end up in the environment every year. Now the Indian Ministry of Transport wants to collect some of it, recycle it and build a 336 kilometer long road – a little longer than the straight line distance between Berlin and Bremen. But garbage expert Sambyal is also critical of this solution: “Cracks could appear and microplastics could get into the ground.”

However, plastic is difficult to replace. It is easy, inexpensive to manufacture and, for example, often the safest material in medicine, as the head of the Institute for Plastics Technology at the University of Stuttgart, Christian Bonten, says. Disposable syringes could best guarantee that no germs are transmitted from patient to patient. Researchers are also working on plastic that is also biodegradable in the sea, said Bonten. But science is not that far yet.

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