Use of plastic sachets for storing and selling gutka, pan masala or other tobacco products and compostable or recycled plastics for carrying foodstuff has been banned.
The new Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, notified on Monday and first reported by HT in August 2010, however, allows restricted use of plastics and empowers the municipal bodies to impose a price for the customer to use plastic bags.
"It is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country. The real challenge is to improve municipal solid waste management systems," Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said.
Its successful implementation like many other environmental laws remains a big question as similar rules for collecting electronic waste have remained more on paper. "Most municipal corporations and state pollution control boards does not have manpower or will to implement environment regulations. We will have to wait and watch what happens to plastic rules," a ministry official said.
While allowing recycle plastic bags, the ministry said that they should conform to Bureau of Indian Standard rules and cannot be used for carrying foodstuffs. The compostable or biodegradable plastic bags have also been allowed.
In case of other plastic bags, only the colours permitted by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) will be allowed and the carry bags should not be less than 40 microns in thickness.
Under the earlier rules, the minimum thickness allowed was 20 microns and the ministry expects it will be uniform throughout the country. Various state governments have prescribed different thickness levels.
The new rule recognizes the role of waste pickers for the first time and directs the municipal bodies to engage them in better management of plastic waste. Each state will have to constitute a state level advisory body for this.
The municipal bodies will have to set up collection centers with the help of manufacturers including MNCs like Hindustan Lever, Coke and Pepsi, for plastic waste using the huge network of waste pickers. "We must be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the lakhs of people involved in informal sector," Ramesh said.
The existing and new plastic manufacturers will have to register either with the Central Pollution Control Board or the state Pollution Control Boards for running the units. "The plastic carrying bags shall either be white or only with those pigments and colourants which are in conformity with the bar prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards," the rule says.