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.

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 US tons) of plastic waste was generated in India, according to its federal pollution watchdog.

Nearly 13 million metric tons (14 million US 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 US 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 percent 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 is 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. (AP)