Five things to know about plastic waste and recycling in India

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pursuing an ambitious project to phase out single-use plastics by 2022 in the vast South Asian nation, which has a population of 1.3 billion.  

View of India. /VCG Photo

View of India. /VCG Photo

Here are five key facts about plastic waste and recycling in India:

Consumption per person 

India's per capita consumption of plastic is 11 kilograms (24 pounds) according to figures released by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2017. For comparison, the United States uses about 109 kilograms per person, which is the highest in the world. 

The world average is about 28 kilograms, the data said, but consumption in India is projected to increase to 20 kilograms by 2022.

India, the world's second-most populous country, generates around 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, according to government figures.

Single-use plastics 

Modi wants to limit the use of single-use plastic such as carrier bags, cutlery and straws. Several states in India have already banned plastic carrier bags. But enforcement has been lax. Amid a push by Modi for businesses to join his campaign, national carrier Air India and online e-commerce giants Amazon India and Walmart-backed Flipkart say they will ditch single-use plastic for packaging in the coming years.

View of India. /VCG Photo

View of India. /VCG Photo


Plastic makes up about eight percent of total solid waste in India, according to the government.

Visible impact 

The impact of plastic waste is visible in two major river systems flowing through India. The Indus (164,332 tons) and Meghna-Brahmaputra-Ganges (72,845 tons) carry some of the world's highest amounts of plastic debris to the oceans, according to the United Nations.


Waste is not segregated in India when it is collected, and vast amounts of plastic litter clog public spaces as well as water bodies.

India's segregation and recycling system operates through an informal chain of workers — from rag-pickers who sort through waste to dealers who sell the plastic to plants.

About 60 percent of plastic waste in India is recycled, according to various estimates. And worldwide, just nine percent of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, according to the United Nations.

(Cover image via VCG)

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Source(s): AFP