- The Environment Ministry reviewed the measures taken to implement the ban on the use of single-use plastics that came into effect on July 1.
What are Single use Plastics ?
- India has defined single-use plastic as disposable plastics 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.
- According to a fact sheet released by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and environment ministry in 2018, around 43% of manufactured plastics are used for packaging purposes and most are of single-use.
Issues with Single use Plastics
- Unlike thicker and denser plastic material, single-use plastic objects being light and flexible are less amenable to being recycled.
- While 99% of plastic is recycled, they constitute heavier plastics that are likely to be collected by ragpickers and plastic waste recyclers. Single use plastics do not provide an incentive enough for the effort needed to collect them and hence they lie around, leach their toxins into the soil and cause environmental damage in both land and sea.
- Single use plastic contaminates soil and water; choke waterways and exacerbate natural disasters.
- Plastics also block sewage systems and provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes; release toxic chemicals and emissions when burned.
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.
Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016
The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 aims to
- Expand the jurisdiction of applicability of plastic waste management rules from the municipal area to rural areas.
- To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, both in the plastic waste management system and to introduce a collect back system of plastic waste by the producers/brand owners, as per Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR).
- To introduce collection of plastic waste management fee through pre-registration of the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/multilayered packaging and vendors selling the same for establishing the waste management system.
- Phasing out of manufacture and use of non- recyclable multilayered plastic.
- To promote use of plastic waste for road construction as per Indian Road Congress guidelines or energy recovery, or waste to oil etc. for gainful utilization of waste and also address the waste disposal issue.
Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021
Last year, the government notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, prohibiting identified single use plastic items by 2022.
Key Provisions of 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 permitted 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 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.
- The rules 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 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 Campaigns of Single Use Plastic, Essay writing competitions, India Plastic Challenge Hackathons, etc.
- The All India Plastic Manufacturers Association has said that the ban would shutter 88,000 units in the plastic manufacturing business. These employ close to a million people and contribute to exports worth ₹25,000 crore.
- Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies (FMCG) would be severely affected by the ban due to their dependence on plastic straws, plates. Their replacements, industry representatives say, are available but cost much more than their plastic alternatives which may be unaffordable in most cases. This is primarily due to the scale at which the alternative market currently operates. There is also limited capacity in India to provide biodegradable replacements.
- The alternative market needs to be offered support through government initiatives to make their reach wider.
- Making India plastic-pollution free is not going to be easy and the responsibility is not limited to one stakeholder — the plastic industry or governments, for instance. All the stakeholders involved from the production of raw materials, plastic manufacturers, giant FMCG companies, national, state and local government along with the consumers have their parts to play to make the ban a success.
- The plastic industry, manufacturers and FMCG companies should consider coming up with design changes in their product packaging to eliminate the necessity of ancillary plastics like straws. This will be possible when the companies come together and pool their resources to find an optimal design that not only promotes profit but also cares for people and the planet.
- The national and state governments have a long road ahead of them to ensure enforcement of the notified ban. This is going to be a work in progress, wherein the state pollution control boards and pollution control committees will need to get down on the ground for inspection of facilities, known to be hubs for plastic manufacturing to stop the production of the banned plastic items right at the source.
- Consumers have a larger role to play, which ranges from refusing the use of plastic carry bags irrespective the thickness, consuming consciously and segregating the solid waste generated in the households. This will ensure plastic waste can be diverted away from dumpsites to treatment facilities, where it can be recycled and given a second life.