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Enforcing manufacturer responsibility for plastics remains a challenge, say HSPCB officials

By Prayag Arora-Desai, Gurugram
PUBLISHED ON NOV 25, 2020 11:03 PM IST

Officials with the state pollution control board said that enforcing the extended producer responsibility clause of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, remains a challenge as most manufacturing units continue to operate under the radar.

Earlier this month, a public notice was issued directing all manufacturers, importers and brand owners introducing plastic products into the market in Haryana to register themselves with the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) at the earliest, or face penal action. The responsible parties have also been tasked with working out their own logistics to comply with the extended producer responsibility (EPR) clause of the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) Plastic Waste Management Rules (PWM), 2016.

As per the EPR clause, which was added to the PWM Rules via an amendment in 2018, “Producers, importers and brand owners who introduce these products into the market... need to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to their products.”

However, HSPCB officials said enforcing the guidelines remains a major logistical challenge. This is evidenced by the board’s annual reports on implementation of the PWM Rules, which pegs the estimated plastic waste generated in Haryana in 2019-20 at 190,163 tonnes. The report, however, lists only 45 registered manufacturing units in the state, along with 46 recycling units. A total of 5,897 challans worth Rs 12.77 lakh were issued in the last financial year for violations of the PWM Rules.

The numbers suggest that Haryana’s plastic waste problem is ballooning. In 2018-19, Haryana generated an estimated 68,375 tonnes of plastic refuse, which shot up by 178% in 2019-20.

“Our observation is that there are several such manufacturers operating without registration, in areas where such industries are disallowed, and who are also manufacturing carry bags less than 50 microns thickness. These are all violations of the PWM Rules,” said Satender Pal, senior environment engineer, HSPCB.

Officials failed to provide a specific number or an estimate of the number of unregistered manufacturing units, either at the state or district level.

According to a 2018 CPCB report, there are at least 1,020 unregistered units involved in either the manufacture or recycling of plastic across the country. “We have issued a public notice on November 12, which is a chance for such unauthorised manufacturers to come forward, register themselves, and submit their plans for compliance with EPR. Failing this, regional officers at the district level will be forced to identify such violators through physical inspections and take legal action,” Pal said.

Detailing the issues with enforcement, S Narayanan, member secretary, HSPCB, said, “The responsibility of coming forward here lies with the polluter, who does not really have any incentive to do so. Moreover, a large portion of the industry is still unregulated and there is little directional framework that is being given to them. We have to find a better way to ensure compliance.”

Narayanan added that Central rules for solid waste, e-waste and construction waste management clearly lay out the logistics for collection of waste, involving guidelines for citizens and urban local bodies. “With plastic waste management rules, the modalities for collection of waste are left to the producers and importers, who have to work out their own channels to get back the waste they produce. This is again tricky to enforce, not just for us, but the manufacturers themselves,” Narayanan said.

The HSPCB’s public notice, officials said, mainly targets smaller manufacturers and not larger companies, such as e-commerce giants or those manufacturing bulk quantities of thermoplastics. “The EPR clause has been monitored directly by the CPCB. It is only after recent NGT orders that states have been tasked with cracking down on smaller manufacturers, most of whom are unregistered. Larger companies, such as e-commerce providers, who operate in more than two states, are required to register with the CPCB directly,” said Kuldeep Singh, the HSPCB’s regional officer for Gurugram.

“At the district level, we will soon be creating an inventory of possible violators and submitting it to our headquarters in Panchkula. We will go ahead and prosecute them as per provisions as provisions of the Environment Protection Act once when we get the go-ahead. We expect this to take a couple of months,” Singh said.

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