The Environment Ministry has issued draft rules that mandate producers of plastic packaging material to collect all of their produce by 2024 and ensure that a minimum percentage of it be recycled as well as used in subsequent supply.
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.
The notification is expected to come into force by December 6 and, as of now, is open to public feedback
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.
As of 2019, about 660,787.85 tonnes of plastic waste is produced in India annually, of which around 60% is reportedly recycled. Nearly 43% is packaging material and most are single use plastic.
Plastic packaging, as per the rules made public on October 6, fall into three categories: The first is “rigid” plastic; category 2 is “flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags (including carry bags made of compostable plastics), plastic sachet or pouches; and the third category is called multi-layered plastic packaging, which has at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic.
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.
In 2024, a minimum 50% of their rigid plastic (category 1) will have to be recycled as will 30% of their category 2 and 3 plastic. Every year will see progressively higher targets and after 2026-27, 80% of their category 1 and 60% of the other two categories will need to be recycled.
There are similar targets, with slight variations, for companies that use packaging material as well as import them.
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.
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.
From July 2022, the manufacture of a range of plastic products will be banned. These include ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, 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, and stirrers.