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By Aniruddah Ghosal | Associated Press

NEW DELHI — India banned some single-use or disposable plastic products Friday as part of a federal plan to phase out the ubiquitous material in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people.

For the first stage, it has identified 19 plastic items that aren’t very useful but have a high potential to become litter and makes it illegal to produce, import, stock, distribute or sell them.

These items range from plastic cups and straws to ice cream sticks. Some disposable plastic bags will also be phased out and replaced with thicker ones.

Thousands of other plastic products — like bottles for water or soda or bags of chips — aren’t covered by the ban. But the federal government has set targets for manufacturers to be responsible for recycling or disposing of them after their use.

Plastic manufacturers had appealed to the government to delay the ban, citing inflation and potential job losses. But India’s federal environment minister Bhupender Yadav said at a press briefing in New Delhi that the ban had been in the pipeline for a year.

“Now that time is up,” he said.

This isn’t the first time that India has considered a plastic ban. But previous iterations have focused on specific regions, resulting in varying degrees of success. A nationwide ban that includes not just the use of plastic, but also its production or importation was a “definite boost,” said Satyarupa Shekhar, the Asia-Pacific coordinator of the advocacy group Break Free from Plastic.

Most plastic isn’t recycled globally and millions of tons pollute the world’s oceans, impact wildlife and turn up in drinking water. Scientists are still trying to assess the risks posed by the tiny bits of broken-down plastic, known as microplastics. In 2020, over 4.1 million metric tons (4.5 million U.S. tons) of plastic waste was generated in India, according to its federal pollution watchdog.

The creaky waste management system in the country’s burgeoning cities and villages means that much of this waste isn’t recycled and ends up polluting the environment. Nearly 13 million metric tons (14 million U.S. tons) of plastic waste was either littered or not recycled by the South Asian nation in 2019 — the highest in the world, according to Our World in Data.

Making plastic releases earth-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and India is home to factories that make over 243,000 metric tons (268,000 U.S. tons) of disposable plastic each year. This means that reducing the manufacture and consequent waste of plastic is crucial for India to meet its target of reducing the intensity of emissions in economic activity by 45% in eight years.

A recent study identified over 8,000 chemical additives used for plastic processing, some of which are a thousand times more potent as greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Products like single-use packaging, plastic resins, foamed plastic insulation, bottles and containers, among many others, add to global greenhouse emissions.

Most plastic cannot be recycled, only downgraded, and it’s often incinerated or used as fuel in waste-to-energy plants, sometimes known as chemical recycling. While plastics are worth three to four times as much for fuel than as scrap, these recycling processes release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect.

“Given the magnitude of the plastic crisis, this is too little. And it’s too little both in its scope as well as the coverage,” said Shekhar.

Ravi Agarwal, the director of Toxics Link, a New Delhi-based advocacy group that focuses on waste management, added that the ban was “a good beginning,” but its success will depend on how well it is implemented. The actual enforcement of the law will be in the hands of individual states and city municipal bodies.

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India said that the banned items were identified while keeping in mind the availability of alternatives: bamboo spoons, plantain trays, wooden ice-cream sticks. But in the days leading up to the ban, many vendors said that they were confused.

Moti Rahman, 40, is a vegetable vendor in New Delhi. Customers at his cart carefully picked out fresh summer produce Tuesday before he tipped them into a plastic bag. Rahman said that he agrees with the ban, but added that if plastic bags are stopped without a readily available and equally cost-effective replacement, his business will be impacted.

“After all, plastic is used in everything,” he said.

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Mets take another series win, crush Phillies 6-0

This time last week, the Mets had just wrapped up four wins in a five-game series with the Braves.

After this weekend in the sun, facing a different playoff hopeful in the National League East, the Mets won another series while holding the Phillies to two total runs.

The Mets’ 6-0 win in Sunday’s rubber match was their second straight shutout of their I-95 rivals. For the first time in the series, the Mets’ hitters matched their mates on the mound, bashing ten hits and inflicting the type of damage that Zack Wheeler hadn’t experienced in a month.

Wheeler, the Phillies’ hurler and ex-Met (who probably should have won the Cy Young last season), had allowed five earned runs total in his last four starts. The Mets only needed four innings to match that total on Sunday.

The third batter Wheeler faced broke a franchise record. Francisco Lindor’s dying quail into right field scored Brandon Nimmo, who missed a leadoff home run by six inches and had to settle for a double. The RBI for Lindor put him at 82 on the season, breaking Jose Reyes’ single season mark for a shortstop. Lindor’s reemergence is one of the myriad reasons why the Mets are also going to flirt with the club’s record for single-season wins. But the fourth inning was truly indicative of the team they’ve become in Buck Showalter’s first season.

With two outs in the inning, Pete Alonso lounging at second base after rocketing a double down the left field line, Mark Canha fell in an 0-2 hole. The third pitch was a tough slider at the knees, but Canha fought it off for a foul. Wheeler’s next pitch was center cut and Canha, not trying to do too much, shot it to the opposite field for a two-out, two-strike RBI.

That’s nothing too exciting or notable on its own, but what followed was a pure distillation of what it means to be a Met in 2022. Not wanting to let the inning die, Luis Guillorme jumped on the first pitch of his plate appearance and produced an RBI single of his own.

Jeff McNeil pumped the bellows next, working a walk to keep the line moving, putting runners at first and second for James McCann. He seemed to be in full swing mode for this fourth-inning opportunity, hacking at a first-pitch sinker that wasn’t even a strike. The inside pitch became another base hit.

As Guillorme scored easily, Phillies’ center fielder Brandon Marsh lazily tossed the ball back into second. Reading the play the whole way, McNeil noticed the lackadaisical effort and decided to sprint home from third base. The Phillies appeared a bit flustered, and though their throw to the plate beat McNeil, catcher J.T. Realmuto couldn’t corral it. That’s how McNeil ended up scoring from first on a single, how the Mets strung together four straight base runners with two outs, how they put this game away, and, in many ways, how they’ve made their bones all summer.

One more run off Wheeler came in the sixth. Daniel Vogelbach, the Mets’ clown prince of milkshakes, padded the lead with a home run off of Wheeler that left the bat at 107.9 miles per hour, and the Citi Field crowd rose to its feet at the speed of sound for the lefty who has quickly become integral part of the squad.

If there’s anything troubling the Mets recently it’s their minor muscle issues. Eduardo Escobar has been at war with his oblique since Friday, and on a day where he was held out of the lineup to rest it, he had to come off the bench to cover another injury. Guillorme’s left groin didn’t agree with him when he ran home on that McCann single. He appeared to pull up a bit right as he was crossing the plate, and a few innings later with Escobar playing third base in his stead, the team announced that Guillorme exited with left groin tightness. He will undergo imaging on Monday to assess the problem.

Chris Bassitt steered the Mets through five innings, then his bullpen notched four innings to complete the shutout. If the Mets repeat this performance next weekend in Philadelphia, it may also put a Vogelbach-sized dent in the Phillies’ playoff hopes.

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