NGT pulls up e-commerce firms Amazon, Flipkart for excess plastic use
In environmental law, the polluter pays principle dictates that a party responsible for producing pollution compensate for the damage caused.Updated: Sep 13, 2020, 02:25 IST
Responding to a plea filed by a 16-year-old boy, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on September 4 expressed its displeasure at the use of excessive of plastic in packaging by e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart, and suggested that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) conduct an environmental audit and then recover fines from the two companies for violating green norms.
The order was uploaded on the NGT’s website on Friday.
Hearing a petition filed by the boy, Aditya Dubey, who approached the tribunal through his legal guardians, to stop Amazon and Flipkart from using excessive plastic in their packaging, the NGT said the authorities concerned were not following the dictum of “polluter pays” even as there were statutory norms prescribing this.
In environmental law, the polluter pays principle dictates that a party responsible for producing pollution compensate for the damage caused.
The NGT then asked the CPCB to take steps necessary in the matter and file an action-taken report by October 14.
“A report has been filed by the CPCB on September 4, which again mentions one or other reasons for not enforcing the law but does not mention the coercive measures adopted either directly by CPCB or in coordination with the state PCBs/PCCs (pollution control boards),” noted the tribunal, headed by justice Adarsh K Goel.
The green panel also said the CPCB could also consider ordering an environmental audit against the two firms to assess and recover compensation, following due process of law.
The plea, argued through lawyers Priya Hingorani and Meenesh Dubey, has pointed out that Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016) defined the duties of e-commerce firms, but because of the lack of monitoring and implementation of the rules, plastic packaging has become a serious environmental challenge.
Dubey’s plea in October 2019 had contended that the companies deliver items in cardboard boxes that were much larger than the size of the item being delivered. The plea said that the boxes along with the plastic wraps used to keep these items in place ultimately end up in landfills.
Submitting its reply on September 10, the CPCB too had agreed before the NGT that the waste management rules required Amazon and Flipkart to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to the packaging of their products, under ‘extended producer responsibility’.
“Amazon Retail India Private Limited and Flipkart Private limited are involved in packaging and selling of other companies’ products and thus introducing plastic packaging in the market. They need to fulfil their extended producer responsibility under PWM Rules and should obtain registration as brand owner after submitting proper documents,” CPCB said in its affidavit.
At this, the NGT had asked for a report from the pollution monitoring body derailing the steps taken by it to ensure implementation of the rules and penalties imposed for violations.
As the case took up the massive problem of plastic waste generation in the national capital, experts said that Delhi needs an effective ‘extended producer responsibility’ to ensure better take-back mechanism.
Tara Roychowdhary, a Delhi-based solid waste management expert, said that while the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change has released a detailed document on the EPR (extended producer responsibility) recently, it was not being implemented effectively.
In an email response to HT, Amazon India said, “Amazon India has been working along with industry bodies and has made various representations to the Ministry of Environment to obtain clarity on roles and responsibilities of e-commerce players. While our teams are working to review the orders and await guidance from CPCB in the present matter, we have always been committed to be compliant with Extended Producer Responsibility mandate under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.”
Flipkart did not respond to repeated requests for comment.