[Answered] “Inspite of various laws and regulations, India has made little progress in managing its plastic waste”. Critically comment. Also discuss various provisions under “The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016”.

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Demand of the question
Introduction. Give a contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss progress of plastic waste management in India. Write about Plastic waste management rules 2016 and 2018 amendment.
Conclusion. Way forward.

A document of National Geographic depicted a recent December 2018 report from Britain’s Royal Statistical Society highlighted a fact that only 9% of the plastic ever made has been recycled. This means that 91% of the plastic produced is ‘non-recycled’ or ‘unprocessed’ and continually deteriorating the global ecosystem. The facts pose a challenge to the world in dealing with plastic waste. India being one of the fastest developing nations and leader of the new age global scenario took aggressive steps to curb plastic waste and regulate efficient waste management systems.

Progress in Plastic waste management in India:

  1. The government is trying to curb the use of plastics of thickness less than 50 microns and multi-layered plastics, yet the enormous Rs. 110,000 Crore plastic industry is continually fuelling the production of plastics.
  2. The facts by CPCB and MoEF have showcased nearly 60% recycling of plastic waste, but the global statistics paint the opposite picture. The majority of the people working in Indian Waste Management System belong to the informal sector and Landfills are practically their livelihood.
  3. A study from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) stated that Mumbai is the fifth largest producer of waste with a whopping 11,000 tonnes of waste generated every day. The finance capital of the country was even marked as a city ‘being buried under a mountain of its own trash’. Nevertheless, the widespread criticism forced the administration to fasten the belts and Mumbai put a complete effective ban on single-use plastics in June 2018.
  4. 2018 ended with high aspirations of the Indian Environment Minister’s resolution – ‘to eliminate all single-use plastics from our beautiful country by 2022’. It may sound promising but one must be critical to evaluate all the aspects of progress made by India and the prospected efficiency of existing legislatures and policy frameworks.
  5. According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) estimates in 2015, Indian cities generate about 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste per day and about 70% of the plastic produced in the country ends up as waste. Nearly 40% of India’s plastic waste is neither collected nor recycled and ends up polluting the land and water. Also many companies have not specified a timeline or a plan to collect the plastic waste that results from their business activities.

Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016

Indiscriminate disposal of plastic has become a major threat to the environment. In particular, the plastic carry bags are the biggest contributors of littered waste and every year, millions of plastic bags end up in to the environment vis-a-vis soil, water bodies, water courses, etc and it takes an average of one thousand years to decompose completely. Therefore, to address the issue of scientific plastic waste management, the Government has notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 which were amended in 2018. Salient features-

  1. Rural areas have been brought in ambit of these Rules since plastic has reached to rural areas also. Responsibility for implementation of the rules is given to Gram Panchayat.
  2. First time, responsibility of waste generators is being introduced. Individual and bulk generators like offices, commercial establishments, industries are to segregate the plastic waste at source, handover segregated waste, pay user fee as per bye-laws of the local bodies.
  3. Plastic products are left littered after the public events (marriage functions, religious gatherings, public meetings etc) held in open spaces. First time, persons organising such events have been made responsible for management of waste generated from these events.
  4. Use of plastic sheet for packaging, wrapping the commodity except those plastic sheet’s thickness, which will impair the functionality of the product are brought under the ambit of these rules. A large number of commodities are being packed/wrapped in to plastic sheets and thereafter such sheets are left for littered. Provisions have been introduced to ensure their collection and channellisation to authorised recycling facilities.
  5. Extended Producer Responsibility– Earlier, EPR was left to the discretion of the local bodies. First time, the producers (i.e persons engaged in manufacture, or import of carry bags, multi-layered packaging and sheets or like and the persons using these for packaging or wrapping their products) and brand owners have been made responsible for collecting waste generated from their products. They have to approach local bodies for formulation of plan/system for the plastic waste management within the prescribed timeframe.
  6. State Pollution Control Board (SPCBs) will not grant/renew registration of plastic bags, or multi-layered packaging unless the producer proposes the action plan endorsed by the concerned State Development Department.
  7. Producers to keep a record of their vendors to whom they have supplied raw materials for manufacturing carry bags, plastic sheets, and multi-layered packaging. This is to curb manufacturing of these products in unorganised sector.
  8. The entry points of plastic bags/plastic sheets/multi-layered packaging in to commodity supply chain are primarily the retailers and street vendors. They have been assigned the responsibility of not to provide the commodities in plastic bags/plastic sheets/multi-layered packaging which do not conform to these rules. Otherwise, they will have to pay the fine.
  9. Plastic carry bag will be available only with shopkeepers/street vendors pre-registered with local bodies on payment of certain registration fee. The amount collected as registration fee by local bodies is to be used for waste management.
  10. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been mandated to formulate the guidelines for thermoset plastic (plastic difficult to recycle). In the earlier Rules, there was no specific provision for such type of plastic.

Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 as follow-

  1. The amended Rules lay down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastic (MLP) is now applicable to MLP, which are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use.”
  2. The amended Rules also prescribe a central registration system for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner. The Rules also lay down that any mechanism for the registration should be automated and should take into account ease of doing business for producers, recyclers and manufacturers.  The centralised registration system will be evolved by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner. While a national registry has been prescribed for producers with presence in more than two states, a state-level registration has been prescribed for smaller producers/brand owners operating within one or two states.

Central, State, and Local bodies are collectively trying to enforce a strict ban on non-recyclable multi-layer plastics packaging. Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Municipalities are also putting efforts to ensure segregation of waste sources and resource recovery. The combined efforts of CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) and NGT (National Green Tribunal) have resulted in the emergence of rules to effectively control the plastic waste issues in India. Comparing with India’s past nation has gained a some momentum on several fronts in the last 5 years, especially in curbing plastics. But still a lot is needed to do.

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