The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021
The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 (“Rules”) aim to tackle the problem of plastic pollution created by various business activities in the country. The Rules operate on the well-known principle of polluter pays and aims to place the liability of the plastic waste on the generators of such plastic waste, i.e. the Brand owner using plastic, manufacturer and producer of Plastics. After taking inputs and feedback from various stakeholders, the Government and CPCB have tried to plug in certain loopholes that are hampering the proper implementation of the Rules till now.
The August 2021 amendment further solidifies the objectives sought to be achieved by the rules. The amendment has finally provided definitions to key concepts under Rule 3 of the Rules, such as non-woven plastic under Rule 3(a), plastic waste processing under Rule 3(a), single-use plastic commodity under Rule 3(va), thermoset plastic under Rule 3(vb) & thermoplastic under Rule 3(vc) further, the major features of the amendment are as follows:
- Rule 4(1)c of the Rules has been amended to make the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 50 microns to 75 microns w.e.f. 30.09.2021 and 120 microns w.e.f 31.12.2022.
- Rule 4(2) of the Rules has been added to prohibit the sale, use or manufacture of certain kinds of Single-use plastic by 01.07.2022
- The responsibility of local bodies and gram panchayats under the Rules has been increased.
- Rule 11, which provides for marking and labelling of plastic packaging, has been amended to allow publishing of brand owner or producer details rather than just the manufacturer and imported goods with multi-layered packaging have been exempted from Rule 11.
Rule 4(2) has been added to the rules, which puts a complete ban on the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of certain kinds of single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene w.e.f 01.07.2022, these include plastic sticks for candy, balloons, earbuds, flags and ice cream, polystyrene for decoration, plastic cutlery, plastic boxes, cigarette packets and plastic or PVC banners less than 100 microns in thickness. Compostable plastic has been exempted from this aforementioned blanket ban.
Rule 4(4) states that where any notification prohibiting, restricting or banning the manufacture, sale and use of carry bags, plastic sheets or like, or cover made of plastic sheets and multi-layered packaging and single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities, issued after this notification, shall come into force after the expiry of ten years, from the date of its publication. It would be interesting to see how this Rule 4 is implemented in the future.
Rule 6 & 7 of the Rules have been amended to include the responsibility of the local bodies and gram panchayat to ensure adherence to the Rules. This is particularly relevant in the amendment to Rule 12, which provides for the Prescribed Authority under the Rules. Under the amendment to Rule 12, the Secretary in charge of urban development and gram panchayats in rural areas are permitted to prohibit or restrict the use of plastic carry bags, plastic sheets or like, covers made of plastic sheets multi-layered packaging. This would mean that local bodies and panchayats can make decisions on the plastic waste management for their regions, however, how much power shall be implemented remains to be seen. If such powers are used via notification, then Rule4(4) would apply, which would mean such a ban or restriction would only become active after ten years from publication. This remains a grey area in the rules.
Rule 11 of the Rules provides for the marking and labelling of plastic commodities. The Amendment to Rule 11 states that in the case of carry bags, the name and details of the brand owner or producer may also be printed rather than just that of the manufacturer. Any one of the above would be sufficient for compliance under the newly amended Rule 11. Further, in the case of multi-layered packaging, imported goods with multi-layered packaging have been exempted from the requirement of labelling the package with the name of the manufacturer.
Rule 13 has been amended to provide the CPCB powers of registration under the Rules, however how such registration shall be conducted is not clear, but considering the amendment to Rule 9(1) of the Rules, which provides that the plastic waste management efforts taken by producers, manufacturers and brand owners must be as per guidelines issued from time to time, it is likely that the gaps left by the rules shall be filled and its strength supplemented by guidelines issued under the Rules by the prescribed authorities.
The government has taken another step in the direction of plastic pollution-free India. However, this is increase compliance and financial cost on Companies who are already suffering losses due to pandemic. The government has given time to comply but an extension for compliance may be granted. The government has also given urban and rural local bodies teeth to implement the Rules, which makes the Rules a force to be reckoned with. While the intention of the government is clear although it will come down to the implementation of these Rules at the local bodies level.