In a significant development on 16 October 2023, the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) unveiled a draft notification in the Gazette of India, outlining a set of rules designed to address India’s mounting plastic waste issue. Referred to as the Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2023, these proposed regulations represent a comprehensive approach to managing plastic waste. This article delves into the essential aspects of these rules and their implications for various stakeholders across India.
A noteworthy advancement in the revised regulations pertains to the use of biodegradable plastics for packaging gutkha, pan masala, and tobacco products. These items are notorious for their significant plastic waste output due to their high production volumes. The incorporation of biodegradable plastics in their packaging has the potential to revolutionize efforts to reduce the environmental impact associated with these products.
Furthermore, the notification introduces an exemption from thickness requirements for carry bags and sachets designed for containing, packaging, or selling gutkha, tobacco, and pan masala. This exemption applies to both compostable and biodegradable plastics. The objective is to grant manufacturers of these products greater flexibility while ensuring their compliance with essential environmental standards.
Mandatory registration for plastic packaging
The draft notification introduces a new requirement for manufacturers and importers dealing with various plastic packaging materials. These materials are grouped into five categories:
- Category I: Rigid plastic packaging.
- Category II: Flexible plastic packaging, whether single-layer or multi-layer.
- Category III: Multilayered plastic packaging.
- Category IV: Packaging made from compostable plastics.
- Category V: Packaging made from biodegradable plastics.
The regulations specify that manufacturers and importers of products falling within these categories must obtain registration from the relevant State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB) or Pollution Control Committee. Notably, carrier bags and products made from compostable and biodegradable plastics are exempt from certain thickness requirements. However, they must adhere to the Indian Standard: IS/ISO 17088:2021 and secure a certificate from the Central Pollution Control Board before selling or marketing their products.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
Another crucial facet of the Plastic Waste Management Rules is the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Producers, importers, and brand owners are mandated to comply with EPR, particularly in the context of specific plastic packaging criteria. This includes compostable and biodegradable plastics and multi-layered plastic sachets or pouches. EPR ensures that those involved in plastic product production and importation bear a share of the responsibility for managing the plastic waste generated by their products.
BIS Report and Labeling Requirements
The draft notification stipulates that plastic packaging materials must be labeled as “compostable,” “recycled,” or “biodegradable,” with specific degradation periods clearly indicated. Moreover, if sample testing began prior to the laboratory’s certification by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) or the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), the production sample must be sent to BIS for re-testing to validate its biodegradability.
Individuals or businesses engaged in the sale, manufacture, or production of raw materials or plastic products are obligated to complete a one-time registration on the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) web portal. Detailed registration guidelines can be accessed on the official CPCB website.
Local Bodies’ Responsibilities
The Plastic Waste Management Rules also underscore the role of local governing bodies in effective plastic waste management. Local bodies are tasked with developing infrastructure for the segregation, collection, storage, transportation, processing, and disposal of plastic waste. They are further required to evaluate the extent of plastic waste generated, including legacy plastic waste, and take necessary actions to prevent the stocking, distribution, sale, and usage of banned single-use plastic items within their respective jurisdictions. Local bodies must also report their progress in terms of infrastructure development and related data to the CPCB.
To promote transparency and accountability, every registered entity must submit an annual report. This report should encompass several vital aspects, including the quantity of plastic waste generated, the status of waste management infrastructure, forecasts concerning future waste generation, and measures taken to curtail the use of banned single-use plastic items.
The draft notification from the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change concerning plastic waste management signifies a significant stride toward addressing India’s plastic waste challenge. These proposed rules encompass the regulation of plastic packaging, the establishment of Extended Producer Responsibility, the enforcement of proper labeling, and the accountability of producers and importers. Local governing bodies are poised to play a pivotal role in infrastructure development and waste management. As these rules remain open for public commentary for 60 days following their publication, it is imperative for stakeholders to provide their insights to help shape effective and sustainable plastic waste management in India.