In news: A report by Delhi-based think-tank, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) was released at a one-day National Conclave in New Delhi.
- It states that India only has itself to blame for having not been able to effectively implement policy to tackle plastic pollution.
- In India with the unceasing growth of consumerism throughout the nation, plastic pollution is rising.
- The CPCB Report (2019-20) states that 3.4 million metric tonnes of plastic waste are generated in India annually.
- Although, almost 60 per cent of the total plastic waste generated in India gets recycled, most of this plastic is down-cycled. At this juncture, India needs robust and stringent waste management tools to substantially improve the situation.
- Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021
- prohibiting identified single use plastic items by 2022.
- Thickness of plastic carry bags increased from 50 to 75 microns from 30th September, 2021 and to 120 microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022.
- Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility given legal force
- Single-use plastics
- These include polystyrene, ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene or Thermocol for decoration, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery etc.
- Extended producer responsibility:
- Guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) on plastic packaging under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016
- on producers, importers, brand owners and plastic waste processors
- 4 categories of plastic: rigid plastic packaging, flexible plastic packaging, multi-layered and plastic sheets.
- Excessive amendments: The Plastic Life-Cycle noted that India, which released its current Plastic Waste Management Rules in 2016, has since amended it five times — in March 2018, August 2021, September 2021, February 2022 and July 2022.
- Misplaced welfare: Each of these amendments have been aimed at benefiting major producers, importers and brand owners.
- Legal loopholes: The 2016 Rules state that all non-recyclable multi-layered plastic (MLP) should be phased out in two years. The amendment introduced in March 2018 was aimed at stopping the phase out of MLPs.
- It said only those MLPs that were “non-recyclable or non-energy recoverable or with no alternate use” could be phased out.
- Industry orientation: The EPR has loopholes that benefit industry at the cost of the environment.
- The August 2021 amendment prohibited the production, sale and use of single-use plastic after July 1, 2022.
- But the February 2022 amendment exempted plastic packaging that accounts for 59 per cent of plastic waste in India from the single-use plastic ban.
- Lack of data: There was no information on the quantity of plastic material or waste a company generated. Not only was such data based on self-declaration, there was nothing available in the public domain to assess its accuracy.
- Lack of monitoring: Producers, Importers and Brand Owners (PIBO) were assigned a 25 per cent collection target for the plastic they put out on the market for 2021-22.
- But there has been no update on the performance of the companies by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for 2021-22.
- Governance issues: With an EPR target of 70 per cent, CPCB is struggling to even register all the PIBOs on its EPR portal.
- Lack of verification: There was no technology to verify the use of recycled content in plastic products.
- Thus any claim of use of recycled plastic cannot be verified
- This means that we have no option but to rely on the integrity, honesty and credibility of the organisation’s claim.
Suggestions for future:
- The entire life cycle of plastic — from source to disposal — must be considered together as the root cause of the pollution.
- NITI Aayog and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India launched a handbook to promote sustainable management of plastic waste in the country.
- Recycling or re-processing different categories of plastic waste into secondary material.
- Incineration of plastic waste – however it is expensive and causes pollution if not done using the right equipment.
- Technical model for plastic waste recycling and management – This component based on an integrated and inclusive approach by involving different stakeholders and their social benefits
- Development of a baseline system of plastic waste management at the city level.
- Systematic approach for promoting recycling of plastic waste at the city level.
- Stakeholder identification and partnerships
- Development of regulatory need-gap analysis and proposals for the holistic management of plastic waste.
- Material Recovery Facility (MRF) for improved plastic waste management implementation
- The recycling targets (under EPR) for PIBOs only start from 2024-25, which means that there is no mandate on recycling of the collected plastic waste till 2024-25.
- There is a need for more clarity on what will happen to the collected plastic waste — will it be stored, burnt or dumped?
- Plastic waste management needs to be equipped with processes and protocols which not only address dry waste management but also create a sustainable ecosystem for resource efficiency, environment compliances, basic amenities, health and safety and a socio-economic support system for key players such as waste pickers and recyclers.