As per the estimation of the Central Pollution Control Board, India generates more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, out of which nearly 40 per cent remains uncollected and littered in the environment. The primary reason for these sky- touching numbers is economic development, resulting in higher demand for goods in the FMCG sector Owing to its strength, low cost and durability, plastic has emerged as one of the most reliable packaging materials, which on the flip side, has resulted in the challenge of plastic waste management. Due to its low cost, finding a cheap and, at the same time, a green alternative has become a challenging task.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change ("MoEFCC") issued draft amendments to the Plastic Waste Management Rules earlier this year, proposing to phase out the manufacturing, use, sale, import, and handling of certain single-use plastic goods ("Draft Amendment").
In 2019, the Government of India had expressed its intention of phasing out all single-use plastics by the year 2022. Pursuant to that, the government is taking various measures to reduce the use of plastic-made commodities to mitigate the adverse impacts on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. One of such steps is the effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
The amendments to the Rules were notified on August 12, 2021 ("2021 Amendment") after due consideration of the responses received from various stakeholders, inter alia prohibiting the manufacturing, use, sale, import, and handling of identified single-use plastic items with low utility and high littering potential. Some of the fundamental changes brought about by the Amendment Rules are as follows:
- Thickness of plastic bags has to be increased from 50 microns to a minimum of 75 microns from September 30, 2021 and to 120 microns from December 31, 2022. This requirement is a mandate for carry bags made out of virgin or recycled plastic but not applicable to bags made up of compostable plastic.
- Prohibition of the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the following items from July 1, 2022:- Ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, wrapping or packing films, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers. This provision is also not applicable to goods made up of compostable plastic
- The Amendment provides that any notification in future which would prohibit the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of carry bags would come in force after the expiry of ten years from the date of publication of such notification.
- The Amendment has mandated mentioning the name and registration number of manufacturer, producer or brand owner, whatever the case may be. In addition to this, the name and registration number of the manufacturer has to be given in the case of multi-layered packaging, but this provision does not apply to imported goods.
A crucial step of eliminating single-use plastics has been taken but its real impact could only be assessed when the Amendment is completely implemented.
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