Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024

News Excerpt:

The Environment Ministry has tightened rules for labeling disposable plastic ware as 'biodegradable' requiring products to leave behind no microplastics.

About the news:

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024 to amend the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, a week back.
  • It defines biodegradable plastics as not only capable of “...degradation by biological processes in a specific environment such as soil, landfill...” but also as materials that do not leave “any microplastics”.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016:

  • Increase the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate a minimum thickness of 50 microns for plastic sheets also to facilitate the collection and recycling of plastic waste.
  • Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also.
  • To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, both in the plastic waste management system and to introduce a collect-back system of plastic waste by the producers/brand owners, as per the Extended Producers Responsibility system.
  • To introduce a collection of plastic waste management fees through pre-registration of the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/multilayered packaging, and vendors selling the same for establishing the waste management system.
  • To promote the use of plastic waste for road construction as per Indian Road Congress guidelines or energy recovery, or waste to oil, etc for gainful utilization of waste and also address the waste disposal issue.

Why the need for amendment?

  • Compostable and biodegradable plastic are anticipated to be the two main technological solutions to India's growing plastic waste pollution issue. 
    • Before being marketed, plastic products must be processed to make them biodegradable. 
  • Although experiments have not yet been conducted to ascertain if such plastics entirely dissolve, it is anticipated that the material will naturally break down over time when discarded. 
  • Conversely, compostable plastics do break down, but only in the presence of industrial or sizable municipal waste management facilities. 
  • In 2022, the Union government issued a ban on single-use plastic and advocated for the use of biodegradable plastic. 
    • However, the question of what exactly constituted biodegradable plastic was unanswered.
  • Several firms, including some that used technology such as Symphony’s, were left in the lurch as the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) refused to provide them with a ‘provisional certificate’ to license their products as biodegradable. 
    • This is because the CPCB only considers as biodegradable a plastic sample that has 90% degraded, and such a process takes at least two years. 
    • Manufacturers who showed that their samples had degraded, say 5% in 45 days, were refused a ‘provisional certificate.’ 
  • This was because the rules do not specify exactly what degree of degradation would merit such a certificate.

What is Microplastic?

The term microplastics was introduced in the mid-2000s and used to describe plastic particles that measure less than 5 mm in size. Some microplastics are intentionally produced at that size for specific applications like microbeads in personal care products, or secondary microplastics, which result from the degradation and fragmentation of larger plastic items and can also originate from sources like synthetic fibers from clothing and the abrasion of car tires.


About the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):

  • It is a statutory organization constituted in September 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. 
  • Principal Functions of the CPCB, as spelt out in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 are:
    • to promote the cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control, and abatement of water pollution.
    • to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control, or abate air pollution in the country.

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