The Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 was the Indian government’s first significant regulatory directive, with the goal of establishing a good environmental protection system. It enables the central government to manage all types of trash and address any special issues that may arise in various parts of India. It is still India’s primary legislation, covering a wide range of environmental rules and acts.
India is one of the world’s major consumers of plastic products, consuming around 12 million tonnes each year (2012). Shopping and waste bags, packaging films, wrapping materials, fluid containers, toys, and a variety of other products all contain plastic. The disposal of plastic products is the main source of concern. Plastics are non-biodegradable and will linger for decades in the environment. Due to the addition of colorants, stabilizers, flame retardants, and other compounds, recycled plastics are even more damaging to the environment than virgin plastics. The entire amount of plastic garbage generated in the country is estimated to be around 8 million tonnes per year (2010).
Also Read: The Plastic Policy in India
The first government rule on Plastics waste in India was the Recycled Plastics (Manufacture & Usage) Rules, 1999.
This regulation is intended to control the packaging of food products in recycled plastics and to manage the severe littering problem. There were three main specifications in the Rule:
- The use of recycled and virgin-colored polybags for non-food applications was allowed but discouraged for packaging food items.
- All carry bags of size less than 20 microns were banned
- The guidelines for the recycling of plastics were made mandatory
As plastic bags constituted the main littering and waste problem, specific plastic bag regulations in India were dictated by the Plastic Manufacture, Sale, and Usage Rules, 1999 which was amended in 2003
These main specifications under these rules are:
- Prohibition of the manufacture, stocking, distribution, or selling of carrying bags made of virgin or recycled plastic less than 20 x 30 centimeters in size and 20 microns in thickness.
- Banning the use of recycled plastic bags and containers for storing, carrying, dispensing, or packaging food items.
- Units manufacturing plastic bags are required to register with the respective State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or Pollution Control Committee (PCC) before starting production.
The Plastics (Manufacture, Usage, and Waste Management) Rules, 2009 were intended to supersede the Recycled Plastics Usage and Manufacture Rules 1999.
The rules are designed to regulate the use of plastics in its various purposes. These rules stipulate that:
- Carry bags and containers made of virgin plastics shall be in natural shade (no coloring agents used)
- The use of carrying bags or containers made of recycled or biodegradable plastics for storing, carrying, dispensing, or packaging foodstuffs shall be prohibited
- Carry bags and containers made of recycled or biodegradable plastics and used for purposes other than storing and packaging foodstuffs, shall be manufactured using pigments, colorants as per the Bureau of Indian Standards’ specifications, entitled “List of pigments and colorants for use in plastics in contact with foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, and drinking water”;
- No person shall manufacture, stock, distribute or sell carry bags made of virgin or recycled plastics or bio-degradable plastics, which are less than 12 x 18 inches (30 x 45 cm) in size and less than 40 microns in thickness
- No person shall manufacture carry bags, containers, pouches packaging from biodegradable plastics unless these meet the Bureau of Indian Standards’ specifications, entitled “Specifications for Compostable Plastics”.
The Indian government on plastic waste has been to release the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011 subsequent Amendment replaces the earlier versions.
- The minimum thickness of plastic bags has been raised to 40 microns
- Recycled carry bags made from compostable plastics shall conform to specific BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) standards.
- The use of plastic sachets for storing, packing, or selling tobacco-based products (and local versions) has been banned.
- The municipal authority is required to constructively engage waste pickers, agencies, or groups working in waste management.