Centre notifies EPR norms for plastic packaging waste
- Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Government of India, notified extended producer responsibility (EPR) guidelines for plastic packaging waste.
Plastic Waste in India:
- Plastic has a wide range of uses, and its physical and chemical qualities aid in its economic success.
- However, the careless disposal of plastic (particularly plastic carry bags) has become a major environmental concern.
- The Minister of Environment recently in response to a question, stated in the Indian Parliament that more than 34 lakh tonnes of plastic rubbish were generated in 2019-20, up from 30.59 lakh tonnes in 2018-19.
- This means that India's plastic waste production has more than doubled in the last five years, with an average annual increase of 21.8 percent.
- The government has issued the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 to address the issue of scientific plastic waste management (amended in 2018 and 2021).
The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016:
- About: The rules mandates plastic waste generators to take steps to reduce plastic waste, ensure segregated storage at the source and give it over to local bodies or agencies.
- Objectives:To raise the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and to mandate a minimum thickness of 50 microns for plastic sheets in order to assist the collection and recycling of plastic waste.
- Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, as plastic has also reached rural areas.
- To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, etc.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):
- Previously, EPR was left to the discretion of local authorities.
- For the first time, producers, importers and brand owners have been made responsible for collecting waste generated by their products.
- Producers are those engaged in the manufacture or import of carry bags, multi-layered packaging and sheets and those using these for packaging or wrapping their products.
- They must engage local governments to develop a plan or system for plastic waste management within the timeframe specified.
The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018:
- The amended Rules are now applicable to Multilayered Plastic (MLP)
- Mandates phasing out of MLP, which are non-recyclable or non-energy recoverable or with no alternate use.
The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021
- The rules prohibit identified single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
The new guidelines:
- The new regulations (to be implemented from July 1, 2022), mandate recycling and reusing a certain percentage of plastic produced by manufacturers, importers and brand owners.
- After recycling the mandated percentage of plastic, a company would have to submit a certificate to the relevant authority and if more than the mandated amount is recycled, it could be sold to other companies.
- The producers, importers and brand owners can even operate schemes such as deposit refund system or buy back or any other model in order to prevent mixing of plastic packaging waste with solid waste.
- Also, registering with the central and state pollution control boards has been compulsory under the new rules.
- The guidelines also prescribe a framework for levy of environmental compensation (penalty) based upon polluter pays principle, with respect to non-fulfilment of EPR targets.
Implementation of EPR
- Through a customized online platform which will act as digital backbone of the system.
- The online platform will allow tracking and monitoring of EPR obligation.
- A framework for levy of environmental compensation based upon polluter pays principle, with respect to non-fulfilment of extended producer responsibility targets by producers, importers & brand owners is prescribed.
- The funds collected shall be utilized for collection, recycling and end of life disposal of uncollected plastic waste in an environmentally sound manner.
- These guidelines coupled with prohibition of identified single use plastic items, which have low utility and high littering potential, with effect from 1st July 2022, are important steps for reducing pollution caused due to littered plastic waste in the country.
- Recycling will now be driven by market forces. The idea is to create an ecosystem of recycling and incentivising it, thus creating a circular economy.
- The new guidelines would promote development of new alternatives to plastics and provide a roadmap for businesses to move towards sustainable plastic packaging.
- The penalty will protect and improve the quality of the environment and prevent, control and abate environmental pollution.