Roadmap for EPR implementation in India Through Secured Governance

The first is recycling or re-processing different categories of plastic waste into secondary material. The second is the incineration of plastic waste. However, incineration is expensive and causes pollution if not done using the right equipment.

Roadmap for EPR implementationin India Through Secured Governance

Plastic was first invented in 1907 and given that it was cheaper and more convenient than other materials, it soon found use in varied ways in our daily lives. Today, plastic is present in almost everything, from our money to electronic appliances, and it is used across multiple sectors, including packaging, building, construction, transportation, industrial machinery and health among others. However, the lack of sustainable plastic waste management (PWM) poses a serious threat to our environment and natural ecosystem globally. Data indicates that while a large quantum of plastic waste is generated, low levels of it are sustainably-managed and discarded worldwide. From 1950 to 2015, around 8.3 billion metric tonnes (BMTs) of plastic had been produced globally, and of this, 80% – 6.3BMTs – was accounted as plastic waste. Of these 6.3 BMTs of waste, only 9% was recycled, 12% incinerated and 79% dumped into landfills,oceans or waterbodies. There are two primary ways to manage plastic waste.

The first is recycling or re-processing different categories of plastic waste into secondary material. The second is the incineration of plastic waste. However, incineration is expensive and causes pollution if not done using the right equipment.

Challenges concerning plastic waste

Plastic waste has numerous implications on the environment and health.The plastic waste dumped in landfills leaches into the ground and nearby water systems causing land and water pollution and ultimately reaches the food chain. The uncontrolled burning of the waste, including plastic, causes air pollution. In addition, the clogged plastic waste in the sewerage system further pollutes rivers and groundwater. The plastic in food and water can cause severe health issues such as genetic disorders, and endocrine system damage. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, all the plastic waste ever generated is still present on Earth today, this makes sustainable management of plastic waste important.

Single-use Plastic

India pledged to phase out Single use plastics by 2022, as per the announcement made by Hon PM of India on World Environment Day hosted by India on 5th June 2018.The Plastic Waste Management Rules, amended in 2021, define single–use plastic as plastic item intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled.The United Nations defines single-use plastics, often referred to as disposable plastics, as being commonly used for plastic packaging, including items intended to be used only once before being thrown away or recycled. These include grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery.

Single-use plastic is the most popular kind of plastic due to its easy access and high use. While it is cheap,strong and hygienic for transporting goods, it is the most difficult to recycle.Plastic carry bags are produced using less energy and water and generate less solid waste than paper bags as they take up less space in landfills.These salient features of single-use plastics make it a preferred material in commercial use.

The adverse impacts of single-use plastic have created an alarming situation across the globe with a call for countries to make commitments against plastic pollution. The management of single-use plastic waste requires using an integrated model that focuses on minimizing plastic waste generation, improving waste management through improved collection services, a recycling industry and ensuring the safe disposal of waste to controlled (scientific) landfills. To do this, the model should focus on adopting a circular economy approach that looks at recycling good quality plastics and different ways of minimizing the production and usage of single-use plastic including plastic bags and Styrofoam.

Though single use plastics have been banned it is interesting to note that the same were widely used in the days of pandemic and have to be disposed of efficiently and not littered.

Environmental, health and economic impact of plastic waste

Plastic waste recycling

In India, the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016 and 2018 and the recently announced amendment of 2021 focus on single-use plastics. The rules detail the various categories of plastics and recommend recycling methods based on the type of plastic polymer used.According to a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report titled ‘Managing Plastic Waste in India’, the plastic in polystyrene (PS) and other categories are nonrecyclable and a threat to the environment. In addition, industries generating plastic waste, commonly known as pre-consumer waste, need as much attention as post-consumer waste. Various manufacturing industries across the globe produce400 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, with the packaging industry being the largest contributor. According to a report by FICCI, 40 percent of the packaging needs in India are fulfilled using plastic.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules,2016 and 2018, mention the extended producer responsibility (EPR) approach,which gives producers substantial responsibility (financial and/or physical) for the treatment and disposal of post-consumer plastic waste.

Types of Plastics

For sustainable PWM, all stakeholders from the private and public sectors,communities andother organizations need to adopt the circular economy approach, thereby reducing and offsetting the plastic waste going into landfills and posing serious threats to our environment,economy, and health. The next section will look at the conceptual framework of the circular economy,including the business case for the plastic waste sector and enablers and barriers in India for this concept.

Conceptual framework of a circular economy

Since the second industrial revolution, our economy has been linear, working on take-make-use-dispose principles. On the one hand, this has resulted in increased economic benefits and prosperity, but on the other hand, it hasalso led to the overuse of resources by promoting a ‘use-and-throw’ approach.According to the Circular Gap Report 2021, 100 billion tonnes of different materials enter the Earth every year. This model not only leads to environment degradation and resource depletion, but it also increases the cost of products by disturbing the material supply system. This results from fluctuating raw material prices, low materials availability, geopolitical dependence on different materials and increasing demand.To address this issue, we need to focus on resource efficiency by adopting a circular economy. The circular economy is defined as an alternative to the linear ‘take-make-waste’ approach. It seeks to design out waste, regenerate natural ecosystems and keep materials and products in use for as long as possible.

To this end, resources are not consumed and discarded, destroying their value. Rather, their value is retained by reusing, repairing, remanufacturing, or recycling.The circular economy entails new business models, strategies and innovations focusing on the optimization of processes and products. Adopting a circular economy results in extended life of products and assets by recycling/upcycling end-of -life products and closing the loop.

Enablers and barriers to circular economy in India

In the Indian context, a circular economy can play a significant role in achieving environmental goals at the national and international levels, promoting sustainable ways to do business and limiting the over-extraction of natural resources.The Indian Government has taken steps to mandate EPR under the Plastic WasteManagement Rules 2016. EPR incorporates circularity by making producers responsible for the collection and processing of a product till the end of its life. Organizations and industries are partnering with government stakeholders to implement integrated models focusing on a circular economy. In addition, to support the circular economy, emphasis has been laid on drafting policies and missions such as the Swachh Bharat Mission and Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, which focus on recycling resources.For economies across the globe, adopting a circular economy can help achieve various sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) directly or indirectly.

SDGs linkages through effective plastic waste management in a city

A plastic waste revolution (a case study in India)

In Bhopal, ULBs in partnership with a local organization, have been working with waste collectors since 2008 to streamline plastic waste collection and sales to recyclers. The organization initially developed a sustainable integrated waste management system for five wards in Bhopal, which served as a model for the creation of a PWM policy at the state level in2011. This model, now known as the ‘Bhopal model’, has been replicated in all states across India (and even onwards to Bangladesh). This innovative model recycles and processes plastic and reuses it in the construction of roads, benefiting over two million people.

Waste pickers collect and hand over plastic waste to collection centres runby the Bhopal Municipal Corporation. The plastic waste is scanned and segregated, and most single-use plastics – which comprise half of all the plastic in this waste stream – are shredded and baled.

The bales are then taken for co-processing at cement kilns or used to build roads. It’s a win-win situation: for waste-collectors – one of the more vulnerable communities in Indian society – because it doubles their wages and ensures that something useful is done with the plastic litter. In 2010,in close collaboration with the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, UNDP’sSmall Grants Project (SGP) provided an initial grant that enabled a local organization to conduct focused interventions in five wards. Part of the interventions included organizing waste pickers into SHGs. In 2014, the local organization was awarded another SGP grant to mobilize more than 2,000unorganized waste pickers in 70 wards of Bhopal Municipal Corporation.

Lending legitimacy

A crucial element of the project’s success was the organization’s partnership with the ULBs and local industries. Through the SHGs, the waste collectors– many of whom are socially marginalized and illiterate women – were organized and trained in waste collection and recycling activities.The majority of these waste collectors have been provided with municipal

identity cards and uniforms through this project. While improving their livelihoods and protecting the environment, these women contributed approximately 10 tonnes of plastic waste collected at five recovery centres in Bhopal every day, which was recycled by cement industries in and around the city.

By the end of 2016, 646 waste pickers in Bhopal were organised into 42 SHGs.More than 60 percent of these waste pickers are women, who earn a daily living from selling plastic waste. Forty members from the various SHGs have also been trained in making bags out of used polythene, which are sold in exhibitions across India. The success of the Bhopal project led to the establishment of a pilot plastic recovery centre in Indore, and as a result, 3,500 waste pickers were organized intoSHGs. In addition, given the occupational hazards involved, the local organization also conducted regular health camps, and over 850 waste collectors are now enrolled in health insurance schemes.

From waste collection to waste recovery

By collaborating with local government bodies, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation allocated 230m of land for waste collection centres. The Madhya Pradesh PollutionControl Board facilitated waste transportation to cement kilns, and the BhopalMunicipal Corporation provided 850 cycle rickshaws to the local organization to enable easier waste collection.

In 2014, five plastic waste collection centres in Bhopal were upgraded to plastic waste recovery centres. This included fitting the centres with plastic shredders,compressor scrap baling machines, and other necessary machinery. The centres facilitated by the local organizations and managed by the women SHGs.Approximately 10 tonnes of plastic waste are collected at these centres everyday. Around 45 tonnes of plastic waste is sold to cement industries in and around Bhopal to be used as fuel in the furnaces. Around 60 tonnes of plastic waste is sold to the Madhya Pradesh Rural Road Development Authority every month to be used in road construction.

On the road

One of the most environmentally sensitive and economically useful means of repurposing plastic waste is using it in roadmaking. Higher-grade polyethylene is baled and sent to cement plants to be used as alternate fuel. These are non-recyclable plastics and can burn with coal at temperatures >1,300°C. In collaboration with the local organizations, the SHGs in Bhopal, who manage the plastic recovery centres, constitute small enterprises via the sales of processed plastic wastes to recyclers, road construction agencies and cement factories.Roads made with mixed plastic are highly durable due to their high resistance to water, which is significant for a region with an extended monsoon.

Self-sustainability of project

The self-sustainability of the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) model is a key component for the successful implementation of plastic waste management in a city. The financial availability and profitability of the model play an important role in the success of this model in the long run. For the self-sustainability of the model, the following components need to be considered:

  • Funding for an initial period of approximately five to six years, including the cost of setting up the MRF, manpower costs and other one-time expenses.
  • Allocation of land, machinery, initial support for power and water charges and waste transportation from the Dry Waste Collection Centres(DWCCs).
  • International agencies such as the UNDP, GIZ, UNIDO and ADB to facilitate linkages with banks for extending payments to waste pickers for Plastic Waste Management (PWM).
  • Linkages with recycling units to create a market-driven and profitable model to achieve self-sustainability.

A city will achieve financial sustainability in approximately five to six years if a dedicated amount of waste is processed and sold at feasible rates. Additionally, financial and infrastructure support is to be provided for setting up MRFs.


Surabaya is the second-largest city in Indonesia and is situated in the eastern part of Java Island. The city generates 1,512 tonnes of solid waste per day, of which (57 percent) is organic waste, and (16 percent) is plastic waste.17 In 2001,Surabaya peaked at 2,000 tons of solid waste generation in a day. At the same time, one of the city’s landfills – Kpeutih – was also shut down, leading to massive littering on the streets. This was a turning point in the history of the city.

In 2004, the city government prepared itself for the long fight against the menace of solid waste and laid down an action plan. Surabaya launched a 3 Rs(reduce, reuse, and recycle) community-based waste management programme,also known as the Surabaya Green and Clean campaign. The campaign focused on educating citizens on waste management, planting trees and saving energy.The primary challenge for the city government was to promote source segregation amongst households. The city government collaborated with Japan-based Kitakyushu International Techno-cooperative Association (KITA), who worked with the city government to introduce quick, low-tech and inexpensive means of household composting. This pushed households to start segregating the waste at source.

By 2009, more than 20,000 households started practicing household composting and 21 composting centres were established. The model reduced waste generation by 30 percent. To ensure the sustainability and implementation of the campaign,the Surabaya City government recruited approximately 420 facilitators and 28,000environmental cadres to manage their community-based waste management initiatives. The campaign also included neighborhoods competitions in which the communities were judged based on cleanliness, tree plantation and waste-management efforts.

Complementing this was Surabaya’s other impactful initiative of installing ‘waste banks,’ which started in 2009. The waste banks initiative was launched under the Surabaya Clean and Green campaign to manage dry waste. It functions like a formal bank system, and the savings are not financial but dry waste. The depository waste undergoes a weighing process, and accordingly, payment is made to the account holder.

The waste bank is not just an environmental initiative but is also an economic model. Citizens are paid to sort the waste at the source, and this ensures their participation in the city’s waste management process. The waste collected by the bank is further sold to large aggregators or recyclers, who use it to make other recycled materials. The model of the waste bank has ensured an increase in the informal sector income.As of today, the city has maintained sustainability of its models via various innovative strategies. The city’s transportation system has been adapted to reduce plastics.Bus units in Surabaya allow people to pay their fares using plastic bottles.


  • Segregation of waste at source and segregated collection, especially in rural areas, is non-existent;
  • Unorganized, informal mechanical recycling, with leakages and emissions;
  • Mixed input streams and ‘pure’ recyclate types of plastic having large variation in additives;
  • Chemical recycling requiring large investments;
  • Occupational & health safety hazards linked with waste collection (for women and children in particular) and in recycling, such as release of dioxins linked to cancer and reproductive problems;
  • Lack of strict enforcement of waste collection and disposal;
  • Open dumping and clogging of drains with plastic waste is still prevalent;
  • Lack of investment and funding to set up proper waste management infrastructure including operational costs of transporting waste for reprocessing;
  • Lack of market-based instruments and regulatory measures for effective functioning of business models;
  • Economically challenging to set up standard prices of plastic waste as raw material and market for recycled products;
  • Most plastic reprocessed only once as plastic resins degrade in quality every time it is re-heated;
  • Lack of corporation between stakeholders across the plastics value chain;
  • Awareness and knowledge gaps;
  • EPR implementation is more like a CSR initiative.

Self – Sustained Economic growth through Secured Governance

“Secured Governance offers a strategy for the government to get all the basic infrastructure development with a negligible investment by the Government. It is a concept of developing Techno Economic Corridors connecting HUBs which will act as growth centre for individual sectors. The very concept of “Secured’’ here implies a secured convergence or knitting with various sectors defining a growth for an economy.”

Secured Governance – A Holistic Approach to Infrastructure Development

Secured Governance is a concept that is catching the attention of many as a holistic approach to infrastructure needs, promising a great deal. It professes taking advantage of valuation of assets created and delivering at negligible cost to the government. It aims at balanced growth in all sectors in need of better facilities, in a more holistic manner, rather than focusing only on say expressways, or power or any one of numerous other sectors. While addressing any one of them, the others also get due attention ensuring all round development. It promises more societal participation and benefit sharing with transparency. Underlying this is a strategy of developing techno-economic corridors connecting urban areas across the country.

Secured Governance advocates a pragmatic approach of taking Advantage of Valuation of Assets Created

This is not new. We all know when development takes place there is valuation in property. Who benefits from this? Often it is incidental and taken advantage off by land and property sharks. Imagine a model where this valuation can be ploughed back into the project and benefit the people around. First the cost of the project is reduced and can be at negligible cost to the government if carefully planned. Next the population sees it as benefitting them and so they participate more enthusiastically, helping with early completion of the project rather than being an impediment.

Public-Private Participation (PPP)

The method of execution envisaged is essentially of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) model, where concessionaires bid for a project, with the incentive being concurrent areas offered to them for development and commercial use. These will give returns in four to five years which will meet their investment cost. It is better than waiting for 20 years collecting toll to make good the loans taken for a project. While the concessionaire utilizes valuation in a pattern that is part of a larger plan for the area, he also shares this with more and adds more value to the whole system. It will be a win-win situation. The SG approach requires the Government to participate as a facilitator and nothing more. The first step is to recognize the merits of a multi-sector approach to infrastructure and conceive projects which may be predominantly one sector but carry with them smaller packages of other sectors. Implied in this is the ability to take decision across ministries and give clearances at one point. The method of implementation will also be peculiar to each project, the place and the local conditions. Single window clearances would therefore have to be the norm, supported by empowered teams that can help conceptualize and clear a project in the SG mould. Once this is done, the execution may be decentralized to specific states or regions. Help from the government will only be required for mid-course corrections where inescapable. The requirement is to move from small to big, from project to project. Each will be unique depending on what the ground and the situation dictates. The method of both valuation and value addition needs expertise and imagination for holistic development in the state through Secured Governance.

PPPs are essentially “risk sharing partnerships” between governments and the private sector on financing, designing, constructing, and operating public infrastructure and public services. Infrastructure projects are inherently complex and unpredictable, and, under PPP arrangements, governments opt to transfer specific tasks and the risks associated with them to private enterprises that might be better able to execute and mitigate them.


It is to be noted that India cannot and will not go slow on its explosively expanding plans despite the dent caused by Covid. The steps taken for massive expansion will be taken forward strategically to achieve the desired results which may be a little later than planned. Investment in infrastructure is necessary for the economy. Infrastructure Growth, huge investment toward a greater formalisation of the economy is bound to lead to acceleration in per capita income of the people and large-scale employment. Government clearly holds the key to realising this potential and taking a proactive stance.

The Extended producers Responsibility is an important step and the policy us evolving. All the stake holders have to jointly to find a solution for the common good.

Use modern technologies to provide both immediate assessment and the longer-term ability to continually evaluate the fine balance between lean operations and risk mitigation. Using analytics, Waste management services providers and cities can benefit from IoT-powered smart waste management solutions. Using the technology, waste management companies can increase their operational efficiency, cut costs, and enhance customer satisfaction by making sure no dumpster overflows. The implementation cost of modern technologies is decreasing, and there are plenty of technologies available in the market to make smart waste management solutions implementation possible. So, stop throwing cash in the trash and start saving time and money. The International investment community is more to support in waste management and a clean environment.

Dr. P. Sekhar,
Dr. P. Sekhar the policy times
Unleashing India,
Global Smart City Panel & MTGF

Dr. Sameer Joshi,
Sameer Joshi
Global Expert on plastic waste management, sustainability, recycling, and circular economy.  Guinness world record holder in recycled plastics

Article Name
Roadmap for EPR implementation in India Through Secured Governance
The first is recycling or re-processing different categories of plastic waste into secondary material. The second is the incineration of plastic waste. However, incineration is expensive and causes pollution if not done using the right equipment.
Publisher Name
Publisher Logo