The Indian Railways on Wednesday announced a ban on single-use plastic material across its network from October 2, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The railways said the initiative would help protect the environment.

In his Independence Day speech last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged citizens to eliminate single-use plastic and use cloth and jute bags instead. He had urged authorities across the country to make arrangements for collecting plastic in the “first strong step” in the direction on October 2.

The Ministry of Railways has now directed all railway units to enforce the ban on single-use plastic material with thickness of less than 50 microns from Gandhi Jayanti this year.

In a tweet, the ministry said: “Minimal generation of plastic waste [and] its eco-friendly disposal is being emphasised. Join us in our endeavour to make IR [Indian Railways] as ‘Plastic Free Railways’.

As per the ministry’s order, all railway vendors will have to avoid use of plastic bags. The staff should “reuse, reduce and refuse” plastic material and use inexpensive reusable bags, the order said.

The order said that the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation should implement returning of plastic water bottles given to passengers. It added that plastic bottle crushing machines should be provided to the railway staff as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has decided to prohibit the use of non-reusable plastic water bottles and other plastic items within the Parliament House Complex. The Secretariat said it was “a step towards the call by the Prime Minister to the nation to make the country free from plastics”.