Context: In line with the clarion call given by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to phase out single-use plastic by 2022, keeping in view the adverse impacts of littered plastic on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
Relevance: Prelims-Current Affairs of National and International Importance.
Mains: GS-3; Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2022
- In line with the clarion call given by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to phase out single-use plastic by 2022, keeping in view the adverse impacts of littered plastic on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which prohibits identified single-use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
- Pollution due to single-use plastic items has become a significant environmental challenge confronting all countries.
- India is committed to taking action for the mitigation of pollution caused by littered Single Use Plastics.
- In the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic product pollution, recognizing the urgent need for the global community to focus on this very important issue.
- The adoption of this resolution at UNEA 4 was a significant step.
The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2022:
- The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of the following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st of July 2022:-
- earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, and polystyrene [Thermocol] for decoration;
- plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straws, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 microns, stirrers.
- In order to stop littering due to lightweight plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September 2021, the thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from fifty microns to seventy-five microns and to one hundred and twenty microns with effect from the 31st December 2022. This will also allow the reuse of plastic carry due to increased thickness.
- 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. For effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility the Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
- The waste management infrastructure in the States/UTs is being strengthened through the Swachh Bharat Mission. The following steps have also been taken to strengthen the implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and also to reduce the use of identified single-use plastic items:
- The States/UTs have been requested to constitute a Special Task Force for the elimination of single-use plastics and the effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
- A National Level Taskforce has 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 the elimination of single-use plastics and the effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, and its implementation in a time-bound manner.
- Directions under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, have been issued to all States/Union Territories inter alia for setting up institutional mechanisms for strengthening the enforcement of Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016.
- The Government has also been taking measures for awareness generation towards the elimination of single-use plastics and the effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. A two-month-long Awareness Campaign of Single-Use Plastic 2021 has been organized. The Ministry has also organized a pan-India essay writing competition on the theme of spreading awareness amongst school students in the country.
- To encourage innovation in the development of alternatives to identified single-use plastic items and digital solutions to plastic waste management, the India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021, has been organized for students of Higher Educational Institutions and startups recognized under the Startup India Initiative.
- Other Provisions under the Rules:
- Classification of Plastics:
- Category 1: Rigid plastic packaging will be included under this category.
- Category 2: Flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheets, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches will be included under this category.
- Category 3: Multi-layered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic) will be included under this category.
- Category 4: Plastic sheets or like used for packaging as well as carry bags made of compostable plastics fall under this category.
- Centralized Online Portal:
- The government has also called for establishing a centralized online portal by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration as well as filing of annual returns by producers, importers, and brand-owners, plastic waste processors of plastic packaging waste by 31st March 2022.
- It would act as the single point data repository with respect to orders and guidelines related to the implementation of EPR for plastic packaging under the Plastic Waste Management Rule, 2016.
- Environmental Compensation:
- Environmental compensation will be levied based upon the polluter pays principle, with respect to non-fulfillment of EPR targets by producers, importers, and brand owners, for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling, and abating environmental pollution.
- The Polluter Pays Principle imposes liability on a person who pollutes the environment to compensate for the damage caused and return the environment to its original state regardless of the intent.
- Committee to Recommend Measures:
- A committee constituted by the CPCB under the chairmanship of the CPCB chairman will recommend measures to the environment ministry for effective implementation of EPR, including amendments to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) guidelines.
- Annual Report on EPR Portal:
- State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) or Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) have been tasked to submit an annual report on the EPR portal with respect to its fulfillment by producers, importers and brand-owners, and plastic waste processors in the state/Union Territory to the CPCB.
- Classification of Plastics:
Few notable facts:
- India’s per capita consumption of plastic at 11 kilograms (kg) per year is still among the lowest in the world against global average is 28 kg per year.
- Close to 26,000 tons of plastic waste is generated across India every day and 10,000 tons are uncollected.
- Some intellectuals argue that plastic is not harmful if it is managed, collected, and recycled properly for other uses. On the other hand, some are in favor of a total ban on plastics fearing its irreversible impact on them.
Reasons to ban:
- According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), plastic is harmful to the environment as it is non-biodegradable and takes years to disintegrate. Also:
- Waste plastic bags are polluting the land and water immensely.
- Plastic bags have become a threat to the life of animals living on earth as well as in water.
- Chemicals released by waste plastic bags enter the soil and make it infertile.
- Plastic bags are having a negative impact on human health.
- Plastic bags lead to drainage problems.
Challenges to phase out single-use plastic:
- India does not have systems in place for effective segregation, collection, and recycling.
- No policy for recycling plastics.
- Also, challenges are there to setting up a recycling plant because of environmental issues raised by Pollution Control Boards of various states.
- Single-use plastic has been a very good business, and that’s projected to continue.
- The economics favor more plastic production.
- A significant amount ends up in rivers, oceans, and landfills that are not recyclable.
- Also, Trade bodies like the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association (AIPMA) recommend the government to extend the deadline for phasing out SUP products by a period of one year to 2023 because of challenges caused by COVID.
- A blanket ban will not stop manufacturers from producing single-use plastic products.
- Finding substitutes for use-and-throw plastic and ensuring alternative livelihoods for producers, waste pickers and other groups involved in the business will go a long way in solving the problem.
- The government should not only place fines for not adhering to the guidelines but incentivize producers to switch to more sustainable products. Along with proper monitoring, promoting responsible consumerism is very important.
- Citizens also have to bring behavioral change and contribute by not littering and helping in waste segregation and waste management.