Centre notifies guidelines on plastic packaging

Updated on Feb 19, 2022 04:54 AM IST

Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav took to social media to announce the notification of the new Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022, late on Thursday night

Plastic manufacturers say there could be some disruption in meeting the timelines. (AFP)
Plastic manufacturers say there could be some disruption in meeting the timelines. (AFP)
ByJayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) has notified guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging, with an aim to eliminate single-use plastics and promote alternatives. The ministry has also laid down roles and responsibilities of producers, importers, brands generating plastic packaging waste, central and state pollution control boards, recyclers and waste processors in minimising plastic waste.

Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav took to social media to announce the notification of the new Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022, late on Thursday night. “Taking forward the clarion call given by PM Shri @narendramodi ji to eliminate single-use plastics, @moefcc has notified comprehensive Guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility on plastic packaging,” Yadav tweeted.

The latest guidelines will come into force with immediate effect, the notification said.

“The guidelines not only provide a framework to strengthen the circular economy of plastic packaging waste, but also promote development of new alternatives to plastics. They provide a roadmap for businesses to move towards sustainable plastic packaging,” Yadav said.

Circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible, according to European Parliament.

According to the new rules, plastics have been classified into four categories — category one will include rigid plastic packaging; category two will include flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches.

Category three will include multi-layered plastic packaging (at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic) while plastic sheet or like used for packaging as well as carry bags made of compostable plastics will fall under category four.

Specifications for reuse, recycling, use of recycled plastic content, and end-of-life disposal of non-recyclable plastic packaging also featured in the EPR.

The ministry has also called for setting up a centralised online portal by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration as well as filing of annual returns by producers, importers and brand-owners, plastic waste processors of plastic packaging waste by March 31.

Producers, importers, brand-owners and plastic waste processors have to provide the details of recycling certificates only from registered recyclers along with the details of quantity sent for end-of-life disposal, by June 30 of next financial year while filing annual returns on the online portal.

Producers of plastic packaging, the notification said, will have to manage 35% of the ‘Q1’ waste in metric tonnes in 2021-22.

Q1 is calculated by adding the last two years’ average weights of plastic packaging material sold and pre-consumer plastic packaging waste, and subtracting the annual quantity of plastic packaging supplied to brand owners.

The EPR target will be increased to 70% in 2022-23 and 100% from 2023-24 onwards. “Similar EPR targets apply for importers and brand owners but the quantity will be different depending upon the quantity of packaging waste they are responsible for,” the notification added.

The recycling obligation for producers will be 50% for rigid plastics in 2024-25, 60% in 2025-26, 70% in 2026-27, and 80% from 2027-28 onwards. “Similar timelines also apply to brands and importers,” it said.

MoEFCC notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules on March 18, 2016, and the Solid Waste Management Rules on April 8 the same year. “As plastic waste is part of solid waste, therefore, both the rules apply to managing plastic waste in the country,” the notification said.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules mandate minimising the generation of plastic waste, avoiding littering, ensuring segregated storage of the waste at source, and handing it over. “The rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators, retailers, and street vendors to manage plastic waste,” it added.

The rules cast EPR on producers, importers, and brand-owners. “Extended Producer Responsibility shall be applicable to both pre-consumer and post-consumer plastic packaging waste,” the notification said.

The government is trying to reduce the manufacture and use of virgin plastics as much as possible, a senior official from the environment ministry said, requesting anonymity.

“For example, if an e-commerce firm is mandated to recycle 200 tonnes of flexible plastic packaging sheets under the notification, then it can just get the same amount of plastic packaging collected from anywhere and get it recycled and get a certificate for it. This will create a market in plastic collection and recycling. The certificates of recycling can also be traded. We had the draft notification in public domain for 60 days and we also consulted several industry bodies and industries who gave their suggestions during the past few months,” the official added.

According to the new rules, environmental compensation shall be levied based upon polluter pays principle, with respect to non-fulfilment of EPR targets by producers, importers and brand owners, for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environment pollution.

“Payment of environmental compensation shall not absolve the producers, importers and brand owners of the obligations set out in these guidelines. The unfulfilled EPR obligations for a particular year will be carried forward to the next year for a period of three years,” it said.

Plastic manufacturers said there could be some disruption in meeting the timelines specified in the notification.

“Much awaited EPR notification is now a reality. The draft notification has sensitised the industry on the expectation and has been in preparation mode. The value chain facilitating EPR needs to be synchronised to improve timelines and capacities. There are ground-level challenges and bottlenecks that need to be addressed,” said Hiten Bheda, chairman, environment committee, All India Plastics Manufacturers Association.

“Trading certificates is an innovative approach towards EPR and we feel technology and Digital India can be enabler for its successful implementation in complete transparency,” said Kishore Sampat, the president of the association.

Swati Singh Sambyal, a Delhi-based independent waste management expert, said, “From a perspective of circular economy, where we focus on upstream resource utilisation and innovation, I feel the guidelines are looking at downstream utilisation of sources, which means on collection and recycling, about time we focus on innovation in material design and packaging as well. Additionally, we need standards for recycled polymers/products so that the huge variability in material/market is omitted and usage of recycled plastic is strengthened.”

“The guidelines are a good first move, considering we have no formal guidelines for PIBOs, processors, other stakeholders in place, however, we also must be open to amend it based on experiences from the ground in coming times and need to look into a bottom-up approach,” she added.

The ministry notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules 2021 in August last year to make it mandatory for the thickness of plastic carry bags to be increased to 120 microns by the end of next year. The rules prohibit the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of products with low utility but high littering potential.

The permitted thickness of the plastic bags will be increased to 120 microns from December 31, 2022. The ban on ear-buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, trays, wrapping, or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners of less than 100-micron thickness will come into force from July 1.

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