The Indian government recently introduced another amendment to the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016. The 2016 policy was originally a replacement of Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011. The previous amendment to the rules was in 2018 and the law was named as ‘Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018.
India generated over 33 lakh tonnes of plastic waste in 2018-19 and 34 lakh tonnes of plastic waste in 2019-2020, an increase of more than 10 lakh tonnes compared to 2017-18 which was 23.83.469 tonnes. Waste is an alarming hazard especially Single-Use Plastic(SUP), according to industry body FICCI, 43 percent of India’s plastics are used in packaging and are single-use plastic. Consumption has surpassed India’s recycling capacity by leagues.
A report by the Australia-based Minderoo Foundation reveals India generates 5.58 million tonnes (MT) of single-use plastic annually and is the third-largest plastic waste producer worldwide after China and the United States.
Plastic waste is a global concern according to the Minderoo Foundation report 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced since its invention in the 1930s, only nine percent has been recycled.
In 2019 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to phase out Single-Use Plastic(SUP) by 2022 in the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly. India had piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic products pollution, recognizing the urgent need for the global community to focus on this very important issue.
However the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016 and ‘Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018 although covered a broad area and was a step in the right direction it failed to make a noteworthy dent in India’s ever-growing plastic waste statistics.
Plastic has multiple uses and the physical and chemical properties lead to commercial success. However, the indiscriminate disposal of plastic has become a major threat to the environment. In particular, plastic carry bags are the biggest contributors of littered waste, and every year, millions of plastic bags end up in the environment vis-à-vis soil, water bodies, watercourses, etc and it takes an average of one thousand years to decompose completely.
Implementation of rules concerning plastic waste management was not so effective because the ambit of these rules was limited to notified municipal areas whereas today, the plastic has reached our rural areas also. There were no provisions on the responsibility of waste generators. The rules did not address the promotion of the conversion of waste to useful resources. Though, it provided for Extended Producers Responsibility for the establishment of the waste management system, pricing of carrying bags, etc. The jurisdiction for different stakeholders like manufacturer, producer, brand owners, statutory authority, and so on was not distinguished and there was a clear gap in the ladder of jurisdiction connecting state and national waste management systems.
India is a vast nation with a federal administrative system decentralizing the administrative authority to both state and central government. The previous amendment in 2018 and the original law in 2016 did not connect the chain of jurisdiction to achieve the result as a result even though as per the Central Pollution Control Board report 22 States have in the past, announced a ban on single-use plastic, but this has had little impact on the crisis of plastic waste.
In the 2021 amendment, the current government reconstructed the law to be more comprehensive, encouraging better compliance. This amendment clearly addressed some of the previous gaps and some bold measurements to accelerate India’s fulfillment of the commitment to phase out Single-Use Plastic(SUP) by 2022.
In this amendment for the first time, Single-Use Plastic(SUP) was defined for clear comprehension. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which prohibits identified single-use plastic items that have low utility and high littering potential, wherein the thickness of plastic carry bags will be increased from 50 to 75 microns from 30th September 2021 and to 120 microns which will come into effect from the 31st December 2022.
By the law, the manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of the following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene commodities will be prohibited and this law will come into effect from 1st July 2022.
The plastic packaging waste, which is not covered under the phase-out of identified single-use plastic items, shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility of the Producer, Importer, and Brand owner (PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. For effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility, the Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
A report says, Hyderabad has imposed this law stringently and even specified penalties for flouting this law. For the first offense, the manufacturing unit would be slapped with a penalty of Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 50,000. Subsequent violation of this law would lead to the cancellation of the unit’s license. Penalties will be also awarded to traders who utilize illegal plastic bags. A first offense can cost them anywhere between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 2,500. Under Labour Act, the next violation would lead to the cancellation of the shop’s license. Besides the manufacturers and traders, citizens using these bags will also be penalized between Rs. 250 to Rs. 500.
Two primary reasons for recommending the increase in the thickness of the plastic bags is that the cost of the production of thicker bags is higher which would inevitably lead to a decrease in the production of the bags by the manufacturers and purchase by the customers. The second reason is that thinner bags are more difficult to recycle as opposed to thicker bags.
Although this law has been on paper, it is yet to materialize in most states and metropolitan cities. In most states, several suits have been filed by the manufacturers against these laws which are still awaiting a final judgment. In the meanwhile, they continue to produce bags less than the specified thickness and thus polluting the already deteriorated environment.
The new rules have addressed a few major problems related to plastic waste management which have in turn unearthed some issues both for the manufacturers of plastic and the implementers of the rules and they need to work out in coordination to ensure environmental safety. However, the immediate need of the hour is a more forceful implementation of the law which has been, as visible even in the national capital of New Delhi, lackadaisically enforced by the Government. A more careful approach to the utilization of plastic by the consumers will definitely give much better results for the environment.
The Policy Times
The Policy Times is the vision and a brainchild of Akram Hoque. He was working as Senior Assistant Director at FICCI. Prior to FICCI, he worked with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Akram Hoque has rich experience in working with the Indian Industry. His long association with India’s top business forums (FICCI & CII) has not only provided him the opportunity to forge close ties with the business community but also guided them to invest in overseas economic ventures. He was Senior Editor at Planman Media Group. He was also a Faculty Member of the Department of Economics in a prestigious Management Institute teaching BBA and MBA students about Fundamentals of Economics, Business Economics, Macro Economics, Welfare Economics, etc.
Mr. Mohammad Shameem Khan,
EHS and Sustainability Head of leading FMCG group
Experienced Environment Health Safety professional with a demonstrated history of working in the FMCG manufacturing industry. Skilled in Safety Management Systems, Environmental Awareness, Negotiation, Industrial Safety, and Continuous Improvement. Strong professional with a Bachelor of Technology – BTech focused in Biotechnology from Uttar Pradesh Technical University.