Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024

GS Paper II

News Excerpts: 

Recently the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2024 were introduced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

More About the News: 

  • The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024, introduced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, aim to strengthen the regulation and management of plastic waste in India. 
    • These rules amend the existing Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, to address emerging challenges and enhance environmental sustainability.
  • Key amendments include redefining terms such as "biodegradable plastics" and "importer" to ensure clarity and specificity. 
    • The rules also mandate the registration of sellers of plastic raw materials and intermediate materials used in plastic packaging. 
    • Importantly, they emphasize extended producer responsibility (EPR), making producers, importers, brand owners, and manufacturers accountable for managing plastic waste.
  • The rules introduce stricter regulations for the sale and use of plastic packaging, including provisions for labeling and marking to indicate compostability or biodegradability. 
    • Manufacturers of commodities made from compostable or biodegradable plastics must obtain certification from the Central Pollution Control Board before marketing or selling their products.
  • Local bodies and panchayats are tasked with assessing plastic waste generation, managing infrastructure, and preventing the use of prohibited single-use plastic items in their jurisdictions. 
    • Producers and importers are required to report on their activities regularly, and state-level monitoring committees are established to oversee implementation. 
  • Additionally, the rules outline detailed reporting requirements for various stakeholders, including recyclers, manufacturers, and urban and rural local bodies. 
    • These reports must be submitted annually to relevant authorities for auditing and monitoring purposes.

India’s Plastic Situation: 

  • Current Situation: 
    • Single-use plastics are defined as items intended for one-time use before being disposed of or recycled. 
    • They contribute significantly to plastic waste, with India ranking third globally in single-use plastic waste production and mismanaging 85% of its plastic waste(report released at UNEA-6 regarding single-use plastics (SUP)). 
    • India announced plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2022. 
      • A ban on identified single-use plastic items came into force on July 1, 2022, covering 19 selected items. 
    • However, many single-use plastic items are still in circulation, and loopholes exist, allowing some problematic plastics to continue. The ban addresses only a portion (11%) of India's single-use plastic waste.
  • Challenges and Gaps: 
    • Lack of distinction between necessary and unnecessary plastics, recyclable and non-recyclable plastics. 
    • Enforcement of the ban has been weak, with poor monitoring and lax penalties for violators. Insufficient development and promotion of alternatives to single-use plastics. 
    • Limited awareness campaigns and declining enforcement efforts post-2022. Micron thickness regulations for carry bags are not uniformly enforced.

Key provisions in rules:

  • Definition of Biodegradable Plastics: The rules redefine "biodegradable plastics" to specify that they should undergo degradation by biological processes in specific environments without leaving any harmful residues. 
    • Microplastics are defined as solid plastic particles insoluble in water, with dimensions between 1 micron and 1,000 microns. (Section 2: Definitions, Sub-section (ac): Defines "Biodegradable plastics".).
  • Registration Requirements: Sellers of plastic raw materials and intermediate materials used in plastic packaging must register with the State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee concerned (Section 4: Prohibition on sale, stock, distribution, etc., Sub-section (4B): Registration requirement for sellers of plastic raw material or intermediate material used for plastic packaging).
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): Producers, importers, brand owners, and manufacturers are held responsible for managing the plastic waste generated from their products. 
    • They are required to collect and manage the plastic packaging introduced into the market (Section 9: Extended Producer Responsibility, Sub-section (2A): Obligations of producers, importers, brand owners, manufacturers, and manufacturers of commodities made from compostable plastics or biodegradable plastics.).
  • Labeling and Marking Requirements: Plastic packaging and commodities made from compostable or biodegradable plastics must be labeled appropriately to indicate their compostability or biodegradability. 
    • Certification from the Central Pollution Control Board is required for marketing or selling such products (Section 11: Recycling of plastic packaging and commodities, Sub-section (3): Labeling requirements for plastic packaging made from compostable plastics, Sub-section (4): Labeling requirements for plastic packaging made from biodegradable plastics).
  • Local Body Responsibilities: Local bodies and panchayats are tasked with assessing plastic waste generation, managing infrastructure, and preventing the use of prohibited single-use plastic items in their jurisdictions (Section 7: Duties of Local Bodies, Sub-section (1): Assessment of plastic waste generation by local bodies).
  • Reporting Requirements: Stakeholders, including recyclers, manufacturers, and urban and rural local bodies, must submit regular reports on their activities to relevant authorities. These reports are subject to auditing and monitoring (Section-17, Sub Section 1-7).
  • Annual Reporting: Detailed annual reports must be submitted by various stakeholders, including recyclers, manufacturers, and urban and rural local bodies, to monitor compliance and assess the effectiveness of plastic waste management efforts (Section 17: Annual reports).

Recommendations for the Way Forward:

  • Strengthen enforcement by upgrading capacity of government officials and providing necessary tools for inspections.
  • Mandate public disclosure of fines and enforcement actions taken by authorities.
  • Implement a complete ban on all carry bags, regardless of thickness, as successfully done in some other countries and states.
  • Recognize the full cost of plastic across its lifecycle and invest in alternatives to single-use plastics.
  • Promote the alternative industry through subsidies, reduced tax rates, and supportive infrastructure.

Conclusion: 

These amendments aim to address the environmental challenges posed by plastic pollution by introducing stricter criteria for biodegradable plastics and expanding the scope of regulations to cover a wider range of plastic-related materials and activities. By defining terms such as biodegradable plastics and microplastics and imposing certification requirements for manufacturers, the amendments seek to promote responsible plastic waste management and mitigate the adverse impacts of plastic pollution on the environment and public health.