Maharashtra Revises Single-Use Plastic Ban: Items Now Allowed for Production and Use
Maharashtra has revised its single-use plastic ban after four years, allowing products made of compostable material as well as plastic packaging material with a thickness below 50 microns under certain conditions. The move will bring financial relief to producers of these plastic items and high-volume users in trade and business. Also of note, under federal law, from December 31, 2022, plastic carry bags must have thickness of at least 120 microns to enable re-use. Plastic bags with thickness lower than 75 microns are already illegal in India.
Maharashtra’s government has partially rolled back the state ban on certain plastic items that was implemented in 2018. The decision is aligned with the Indian federal government’s ban on plastic.
What is now allowed?
Maharashtra’s state government now allows the production and use of single-use disposable plastic items like straw, cups, plates, glasses, forks and spoons, and containers like bowls, among others, made of compostable plastic material.
A senior official speaking to Hindustan Times explained: “Compostable plastic is different from plastic made up of petrochemicals and fossil fuels. It can be composted at commercial facilities.”
Also to be allowed will be non-woven polypropylene carry-bags not more than 60 grams per square meter and plastic packaging material with thickness less than 50 microns if it is necessary to maintain the functionality of the product. This is for industries that are able to prove their productivity has been adversely impacted by the plastic ban.
All of these products need mandatory approval from the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology (CIPET) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The partial roll-back will help stakeholders across the plastic industry – manufacturers and traders – and high volume users like restaurants, shops, and MSME businesses in the state.
Previously, on March 23, 2018, the Maharashtra environment department had banned the production, use, storage, distribution, wholesale, retail, import, and transport of all types of plastic bags, single-use disposable items made of plastic, thermocol, small bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE) with less than half liter capacity, etc.
Then on April 11, 2018, the Maharashtra government allowed production and sale of PET/PETE bottles if the manufacturers, producers, sellers, and traders set up collection centers, reverse vending machines, and crushing machines for recycling units at strategic locations to collect and recycle waste bottles.
Moreover, in July this year, the Maharashtra government banned the production and use of plastic-coated and laminated goods in the state.
India’s plastic ban
The federal government amended the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibiting specific single-use plastic (SUP) items in India in August 2021. The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022, came into effect July 1, 2022 and has banned the nationwide manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of specific single-use plastic items that have low utility and high littering potential.
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. This is also in effect from July 1, 2022.
Further, from December 31, 2022, plastic carry bags with thickness lower than 120 microns will be banned; plastic carry bags with thickness of less than 75 microns have been banned from September 30, 2021.
The following SUP items are banned: ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice- cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery like forks, spoons, and knives, straws, trays, wrapping or packing film around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, and stirrers.
As India struggles to maintain a consistent line on its single-use plastic ban or even successfully implement its nationwide ban, it is evident that cheaper, green alternatives are needed that can be manufactured at scale.
This calls for investments and R&D efforts into biodegradable products that can replace plastic counterparts and whose end-use has commercial viability besides bolstering the current waste management infrastructure.
It is also becoming a more time sensitive concern for India, which generated nearly 3.5 million tons of plastic in 2020-21. The states of Maharashtra (13%), Punjab (12%), and Tamil Nadu (12%) led consumption as per reporting in DW.
Even though India has a relatively lower per capita consumption at 11 kilograms of plastic per year, the global average being 28 kilograms, it has a population size to contend with. Moreover, the country has recycling capacity for about just half the plastic it generates, at 1.56 million tons.
There are several stakeholders involved in the supply chain – raw material producers, manufacturers of finished items, FMCG companies, services sector like restaurants – that need to contribute their part to making India’s plastic management policy effective. The government is therefore likely to welcome research and product innovation that will incentivize and facilitate the shift away from plastic generation and wide use.
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