Draft Rules for Plastic Management

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    In News

    • Recently, the Environment Ministry has issued draft rules for plastic management and the notification is expected to come into force by December 6, 2021.

    About

    • As of 2019, about 660,787.85 tonnes of plastic waste was produced in India annually.
    • Out of it, around 60% is reportedly recycled. 
    • Nearly 43% is packaging material and most are single-use plastic.

    Draft Rules

    • Recycling: 
      • It mandates that producers of plastic packaging material collect all of their produce by 2024 and ensure that a minimum percentage of it be recycled as well as used in subsequent supply.
    • EPR Certificates: 
      • It has also specified a system whereby makers and users of plastic packaging can collect certificates — called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates — and trade in them.
      • EPR is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
    • Not eligible to recycling: 
      • Only a fraction of plastic that cannot be recycled — such as multi-layered multi-material plastics — will be eligible to be sent for end-of-life disposal such as road construction, waste to energy, waste to oil and cement kilns, and here too, only methods prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board will be permitted for their disposal.
    • Plastic Producers: 
      • Producers of plastic will be obliged to declare to the government, via a centralised website, how much plastic they produce annually. 
      • Companies will have to collect at least 35% of the target in 2021-22, 70% by 2022-23 and 100% by 2024.
      • Plastic packaging falls into three categories
        • Rigid plastic
        • Flexible plastic packaging of a single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags (including carrying bags made of compostable plastics), plastic sachet or pouches; 
        • Multi-layered plastic packaging, which has at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic.
      • In 2024, a minimum of 50% of their rigid plastic (category 1) will have to be recycled as will 30% of their category 2 and 3 plastic.
    • Non Compliance:
      • If entities cannot fulfil their obligations, they will on a “case by case basis” be permitted to buy certificates making up for their shortfall from organisations that have used recycled content in excess of their obligation. 
      • The CPCB will develop a “mechanism” for such exchanges on a centralised online portal.
      • Non-compliance, however, will not invite a traditional fine. 
      • Instead, an “environmental compensation” will be levied, though the rules do not specify how much this compensation will be.
    • Compensation 
      • Entities that do not meet their targets or do not purchase enough credits to meet their annual target must pay a fine. 
      • Were they to meet their targets within three years, they stand to get a 40% refund. 
      • Beyond that, however, the money will be forfeited. 
      • Funds collected in this way will be put in an escrow account and can be used in collection and recycling/end of life disposal of uncollected and non-recycled/ non-end of life disposal of plastic packaging waste on which the environmental compensation is levied.

    Significance

    • Reduces Pollution Across Ecosystems:
      • Recycling plastic instead of manufacturing it from scratch hence indirectly reduces the emission of hazardous greenhouse gases.
      • Recycling plastic means reduced the quantum of plastic waste. This in turn reduces pollution and saves a lot of animal species crucial to the food chain.  
    • Requires Less Energy and 
      • Manufacturing plastic from scratch requires much more energy compared to producing products from recycled plastic. 
      • A ton of recycled plastic saves 7,200 kilowatt-hours of electricity or about enough energy to run a household for seven months.
    • Helps Conserve Natural Resources
      • Also, the manufacturing process requires natural resources such as water, petroleum, natural gas and coal as raw materials. 
      • Hence, plastic recycling saves precious natural resources. 
      • For example, petroleum, which is crucial for making new plastic products, around 40% of petroleum consumption can be reduced by simply recycling discarded and old plastic waste.
    • Saves Fast-depleting Landfill Space
      • Proper waste management through reusing and recycling of plastics can save significant amounts of landfill space. 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space can be saved by recycling 1 ton of plastic.
    • Eases the Demand on Fossil Fuel Consumption:
      • Millions of barrels of crude oil are used to fuel the demand for plastics in a single year. 
      • Since oil is a finite natural resource, recycling plastic and recovering as much raw material as is possible, the consumption of crude oil can be reduced significantly. 
    • Promotes a Sustainable Lifestyle:
      • Business greatly impacts the lifestyle of communities in which they operate. 
      • If businesses work along with their internal and external stakeholders towards creating awareness and promoting positive impacts of plastic reuse and recycling, they are bound to bring about a sea change towards environment conservation.

    Various Sources of Plastic Pollution

    Image Courtesy: Data 

    Steps Taken to Regulate the Manufacture of Plastic in India

    • Single-use plastics: 
      • 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 July 2022:-
        • earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene [Thermocol] for decoration;
        • plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packaging films around sweet boxes, invitation cards,  and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
    • Thickness of plastic bags: 
      • The permitted thickness of the plastic bags, currently 50 microns, will be increased to 75 microns from 30th September 2021, and to 120 microns from 31st December 2022.
      • Plastic bags with higher thickness are more easily handled as waste and have higher recyclability.
    • Legal Framework for Banning Plastic: 
      • Currently, the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibits the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of carrying bags and plastic sheets less than 50 microns in thickness in the country.
      • Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 amend the 2016 rules.
    • Implementing Agency: 
      • The Central Pollution Control Board, along with state pollution bodies, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties already prescribed under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.

    Initiatives to Curb Plastic Waste

    • Swachh Bharat Mission
    • India Plastics Pact
    • Project REPLAN
    • Un-Plastic Collective
    • GoLitter Partnerships Project

    Way Ahead

    • Despite challenging conditions, India must not turn its backs on plastic pollution. 
    • It is vital for the government, and for the rest of the industry, to stay the course, cut the amount of plastic it uses and rapidly transition to a circular economy. 

    Source: TH