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Draft Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021

June 18, 2021

On March 11, 2021, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) announced the Draft Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021. The draft proposes to add various amendments in the existing Rules and also seeks a ban on plastic-related items in Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016. The Draft Rules declare a complete phasing out of single-use plastics by 2022 in India. The Union Ministry of Environment had invited comments on the Draft and was open for public suggestions until May 11, 2021. The final Rules shall come into effect on the date of publication in the Official Gazette.

India, at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly, had modeled a resolution for global phase-out of single-use plastics (SUPs) in a time-bound manner by 2025.[1] Even though the resolution had failed to gain support globally, its implementation has commenced in India ever since.[2]

Draft Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2021- Key Highlights

  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021, has extended its applicability to[3]:
  • Brand-owners;
  • Plastic waste processors (which include recyclers, co-processors etc).
  • Inclusion of various new definitions for the terms[4]:
  • Non-woven plastic bag
  • Plastic waste processing
  • Single use plastic
  • Thermostat
  • Thermoplastic
  • First Phase shall be effective from September 30, 2021- Ban on manufacturing plastic carry bags with thickness less than 120 microns from 50 microns;
  • Second Phase shall be effective from January 1, 2022 – Manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (Thermocol) for decoration;
  • Third Phase shall be effective from July 1, 2022 – The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of single-use plastic (including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene) items: plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping/packing films around sweet boxes; invitation cards; and cigarette packets, plastic/PVC banners less than 100 µm thick, and stirrers.[5]

Background:

India has enacted different legislations to curb plastic pollution and environmental degradation in the past two decades. Initial legislative attempts endeavored to restrict plastic waste by preventing plastic carry bags with thickness 20 µm or less[6] which later led to the complete prohibition on the usage of certain plastic materials[7]. National legislation such as Plastic Waste (Management and Handling Rules), 2011 and Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 also attempt to restrict and prohibit usage of single-use plastics (SUPs) but have been not rigorously implemented. There has also been the incorporation of the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ as being a part of the Environmental Law. It imposes liability on people who pollute the environment by compensating for the damage caused and return the environment to its original state regardless of the intent.[8]

Conclusion:

Major steps towards implementation of the new Rules are important for fulfilling principles of Extended Producer Responsibility.[9] Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Regional Pollution Control Authorities are required to play a vital role in keeping vigilance and making key interventions for gaining progress at resolving plastic tribulation in India. There is also a need of alternatives to single-use plastics (SUPs) as a mere prohibition of plastic items will not end India’s fight against plastic waste pollution. Proper disposal of plastic, being a collective responsibility needs to be ensured by everyone, consumers, and manufacturers to mitigate environmental problems in India. Therefore, the implementation of Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021 shall lay down a strategic approach towards better plastic waste management.

[1] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1568929

[2] https://ssrana.in/articles/india-government-to-ban-six-items-from-october-2-in-an-attempt-to-reduce-single-use-plastic-consumption/

[3] Rule 2 of Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021, http://moef.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Draft-Plastic-waste-Notification.pdf

[4] Rule 3 of Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2021, http://moef.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Draft-Plastic-waste-Notification.pdf

[5] Rule 5 of Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 202, http://moef.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Draft-Plastic-waste-Notification.pdf

[6] https://www.mpcb.gov.in/sites/default/files/plastic-waste/rules/Amendrule2003.pdf

[7]https://www.indiawaterportal.org/sites/default/files/iwp2/Plastic_waste__management_and_handling__rules_Ministry_of_Environment_and_Forests_Government_of_India__2011_.pdf

[8] https://ssrana.in/articles/india-polluter-pays-principle/#:~:text=The%20Court%20held%20that%20once,while%20carrying%20on%20his%20activity.

[9] https://ssrana.in/articles/india-producer-responsibility-organization/

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