What are Single use Plastics ?
- India has defined single-use plastic as disposable plastics (use-and-throw items) that are commonly used for packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
- These include items such as carry bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery.
Legal Regulations in India
- In order to address the issue of scientific plastic waste management, the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were notified in 2011 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) which included plastic waste management.
- The Government has notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, in suppression of the earlier Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011.
- The government has recently notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, prohibiting identified single use plastic items by 2022.
- The notification is in line with India’s stand at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, when the country moved a resolution on addressing single use plastic products pollution by 2022.
Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021
- The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of notified single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022.
- In order to stop littering due to light weight plastic carry bags, the thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from 50 microns to 75 microns with effect from 30th September, 2021 and to 120 microns with effect from the 31st December, 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 (EPR) of the Producer, importer and Brand owner (PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and EPR has been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
- To constitute a Special Task Force for elimination of single use plastics and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
- A National Level Taskforce had also been constituted by the Ministry for taking coordinated efforts to eliminate identified single use plastic items and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
- The State /UT Governments and concerned Central Ministries/Departments have also been requested to develop a comprehensive action plan for elimination of single use plastics and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, and its implementation in a time bound manner.
- The Government has also been taking measures for awareness generation towards elimination of single use plastics and effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. Eg: Awareness Campaign of Single Use Plastic 2021, Essay writing competition, India Plastic Challenge Hackathon 2021.
What’s in news?
- The ‘Report on Single Use Plastics’, worked on by an expert committee constituted by the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC) mentions that on examining bans and other restrictions on plastic products issued by various State governments and Union Territories, the expert committee noted that the guidelines lack uniformity and vary widely in different parts of the country.
- The report highlights plastic products categorised based on their environmental impact and utility and those found to have the lowest utility and highest environmental impact are recommended for a phase-out.
- These include thin carry bags (less than 50 micron); non-woven carry bags and covers (less than 80 gsm and 320 microns); small wrapping/ packing films; straws/ stirrers; cutlery such as foam cups, bowls; earbuds with plastic sticks; cigarette filters; small plastic bottles; plastic banners etc.
Key Loopholes highlighted in the Report
- Role of Corporations- According to Minderoo Foundation’s ‘Plastic Waste-Makers Index’, released earlier this year, reveals the companies that produce 90% of all SUP waste generated globally.
- The list includes Reliance Industries, GAIL India, Indian Oil Corporation, and Haldia Petrochemicals from India.
- Packaging and EPR woes- As per report from the Centre for Science and Environment, Plastic packaging (flexible and rigid) contributes almost 60% of the total plastic waste generated but packaging waste hasn’t been listed for a phase-out.
- The report states that the EPR concept in India is largely connected with litter and other environmental issues but has not even begun to be implemented.
- Busting the bio-plastic bubble- The bio-plastics and other compostable, oxo-degradable and oxo-biodegradable plastics are primarily used for grocery bags or carry bags and they require separate composting facilities created with specific environmental conditions.
- The Report mentions that the conditions required for the decomposition of compostable bags do not exist in India’s municipal landfills.
- The compostable plastics are more expensive than conventional plastics, and not available in sufficient quantities in India.
- The informal workforce- According to FICCI, the plastics recycling industry in India employs over 1.6 million people and has more than 7,500 recycling units but recycling has been managed by extremely small players, who employ elementary waste segregation processes and lack scientific know-how on waste collection, segregation, and disposal.
- The Report highlights the need for upgradation of technology for mechanical recycling along with educating key players and providing them incentives to manage waste wisely.
- The way of functioning needs to be improved for waste pickers estimated to be between 1.5 million and 4 million.
- The key loophole highlighted in the report is lack of implementation of Rules.