India’s New Plastic Waste Management Rules Effective from July 1, 2022
Businesses in India will need to comply with new plastic waste management rules that ban single use plastic from July 1, 2022. Noncompliance will trigger penal consequences. The products affected include ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags etc. Plastic packaging waste shall now be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) of the producer, importer, and brand owner. The single use plastic ban will be closely monitored by the Central and State Pollution Control Boards and directives have been issued at the national, state, and local government levels to not supply raw materials to industries that operate in banned items.
In August 2021, the Indian federal government amended the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibiting identified single use plastic items in India, which have low utility and high littering potential. Recently in February 2022, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) also released guidelines on the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging vide the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022. As per the new guidelines, plastic packaging waste shall now be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) of the producer, importer, and brand owner. Both these amendments will be effective from July 1, 2022.
The latest guidelines are in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambition to phase out single use plastic by 2022, keeping in view the adverse impacts of littered plastic on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India had steered a resolution on addressing single use plastic products pollution, acknowledging the urgent resolution of the issue at a global scale.
What is single use plastic and why is it being banned?
Single use plastic is a form of disposable plastic used in products like water bottles, straw, cups etc., which can only be used once and then has to be discarded. Businesses are inclined towards producing single use plastics due to their cost-effectiveness. Recently, there have been apprehensions among consumers regarding plastic reuse due to Covid-19 related safety measures. Trade bodies like the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association (AIPMA) had recommended that the government extend the deadline for phasing out single use plastic products by a period of one year to 2023 because of challenges caused by the pandemic.
It must be noted that India’s per capita consumption of plastic is at 11 kilograms (kg) per year, as against the global average of 28 kg per year. As per data by MoEFCC, in India, over 3.4 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2019-20 and 3.06 million tons in 2018-19. The situation worsens when a significant amount of such unrecyclable waste ends up in rivers, oceans, and landfills.
The biggest challenge around the elimination of single use plastic in India is the absence of a well-established system for effective segregation, collection, and recycling. Moreover, India still doesn’t have a waste recycling policy in place due to environmental issues raised by various State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs).
What are the new Plastic Waste Management Rules?
Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021
As per the amended rules, the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of single use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited from July 1, 2022. These products include:
- Ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene for decoration.
- Plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic, or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
The government has issued directives at the national, state, and local levels to not supply raw materials to industries that operate in banned items. Additionally, with effect from December 31, 2022, the thickness of plastic carry bags must be increased from 75 microns to 120 microns to allow their re-use. MoEFCC had earlier banned polythene bags under 75 microns in September 2021, widening the limit from the earlier 50 microns. There is a blanket ban already in place on sachets using plastic material for packing, storing, or selling pan masala, gutkha, and tobacco.
Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022
The 2022 rules enlist the following provisions:
Classification of plastics
- Category 1: Rigid plastic packaging will be included under this category.
- Category 2: Flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches will be included under this category.
- Category 3: Multi-layered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic) will be included under this category.
- Category 4: Plastic sheet or like used for packaging as well as carry bags made of compostable plastics fall under this category.
The latest guidelines have mandated the reuse of rigid plastic packaging material in order to reduce the use of fresh plastic material for packaging. The enforceable prescription of minimum level of recycling of plastic packaging waste collected under EPR, along with use of recycled plastic content will further reduce plastic consumption and support recycling of plastic packaging waste.
In a significant first, the 2022 guidelines allow for sale and purchase of surplus extended producer responsibility certificates. This will establish a market mechanism for plastic waste management.
Centralized online portal
The federal government has also proposed the formation of a centralized online portal by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration as well as filing of annual returns by producers, importers and brand-owners, plastic waste processors of plastic packaging waste by March 31, 2022. It would act as the single point data repository with respect to orders and guidelines related to implementation of EPR for plastic packaging under Plastic Waste Management Rule, 2016.
Environmental compensation will be levied based upon polluter pays principle, with respect to non-fulfilment of EPR targets by producers, importers, and brand owners. This is intended to protect and improve the quality of the environment as well as prevent, control, and abate environment pollution. The polluter pays principle imposes liability on the person who pollutes the environment to compensate for the damage caused and return the environment to its original state regardless of the intent.
Committee to recommend measures
A committee constituted by the CPCB under the chairmanship of CPCB chairman will recommend measures to MoEFCC for effective implementation of EPR, including amendments to EPR guidelines.
Annual report on EPR portal
Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) and the SPCBs have been tasked to submit an annual report on EPR portal with respect to its fulfillment by producers, importers and brand-owners and plastic waste processors in the respective State/Union Territory to the CPCB.
What are the consequences of flouting the plastic ban directives?
Parties responsible for breaching the above guidelines shall be penalized under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, which stipulates a jail term of up to five years, or a fine of up to INR 100,000, or both. Furthermore, there are municipal laws on plastic waste, which also outline their own penalties.
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