June 18, 2024
Plastic Regulatory

Plastic Regulatory: How India is Working to Regulate Plastic Use

Emerging Plastic Regulations in India

Over the past few years, the Indian government has increasingly recognized the urgent need to regulate plastic use across the country. Excessive and unmanaged plastic waste is contaminating land and water sources, threatening both the environment and public health. A number of new policies and initiatives have been launched at both national and local levels to curb plastic pollution.

In recent times, more states have moved to restrict or ban specific single-use Plastic Regulatory items like bags, cups, plates, straws and other disposable cutlery. Maharashtra was among the first to introduce a plastic ban in 2018, prohibiting the sale, storage and manufacture of various plastic products. Several other states like Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have now implemented similar bans to phase out commonly littered plastics. While enforceability remains a challenge, these piecemeal restrictions represent an important step towards tackling the problem.

A national framework is also being developed to plastic regulatory production, usage and waste management across India. In February 2022, the central government notified the ambitious Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, aimed at phasing out identified single-use plastic items by 2022. The new rules prohibit manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of various SUP items like earbuds, plastic flags, candy/choclate wrappers and cigarette packets without alternative options. Manufacturers will now need to ensure that plastic products are duly labeled and packaged to facilitate effective waste management.

EPR for Producers and Brand Owners

One of the most significant provisions introduced by the amended rules is the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). As per EPR, producer responsibility gets extended beyond just manufacturing to post-consumer plastic waste management as well. All plastic product manufacturers, importers and brand owners operating in India now have to setup a system for collecting back the same quantity of plastic waste generated by their products placed on the market.

This essentially seeks to make companies financially and physically accountable for plastic packaging of their goods put on the market. Producers will be required to setup individual or collective mechanisms like take-back systems and waste collection centers for dealing with plastic waste under their EPR obligations. Not complying could attract penalties between Rs. 1-5 lakhs for individual violations.

The EPR move is expected to boost sustainable plastic management practices and encourage reduction of unnecessary plastic used by corporates. Industry bodies will now need to work actively with street vendors, local shops and urban local bodies to collect plastic packaging waste at scale. Over time, EPR obligations may also be extended to more plastic producers and materials to develop an effective circular economy.

Promoting Alternatives

Beyond bans and EPR, India is promoting R&D and adoption of eco-friendly alternative materials to bring about a long-term shift away from single-use plastics. The amended rules make it mandatory for producer/importers to use recycling/waste management labels on plastic products and develop action plans for using recycled plastics in their goods. The official Plastics Mission is also working to strengthen plastic waste collection, recycling industry and infrastructure across states.

Some corporates in India have commenced piloting of alternatives like biodegradable and oxo-biodegradable plastics, Bamboo, palm leaf, paper and eco-enzymes for plastic packaging needs. Edible cutlery, throwaway cups and packaging made from crops like wheat, corn, sorghum, reed, grass etc are gradually gaining traction. Industry events like PlastIndia are encouraging R&D on novel and sustainable materials that can mimic properties of virgin plastic.

While alternatives may cost slightly higher than existing plastics currently, large scale adoption is expected to bring down differential prices in the future. Government initiatives like subsidies and tax waivers for green manufacturers could accelerate the transition. If implemented collectively, India’s multi-pronged approach may help reinvent its relationship with plastics and set a global example for plastic waste governance. Continued efforts are needed to make regulations more stringent over time and ensure effective compliance across states.

Public Participation and Awareness

Active public participation is critical for success of any environmental cause. For plastic regulatory to have meaningful impact, citizens need to understand responsibilities and change daily plastic usage behaviors. The government and civil society bodies are regularly conducting awareness drives on ill-effects of single-use plastics and importance of segregated plastic waste disposal. Various behavior change communication programs target youth, students, urban poor and waste handlers.

Social media campaigns fostering a sense of local pride and responsibility around clean communities without plastic dumping have shown encouraging results. Grassroots initiatives like cleaning public places, charging for plastic bags, bans enforced by Resident Welfare Associations indicate growing public concern. Segregation of wet and dry waste at source by residents has significantly improved the recoverability of post-consumer plastic scrap. These collective efforts, if sustained, will support India’s fight against plastic pollution in the long run.

In conclusion, effective plastic governance requires a multi-stakeholder approach combining regulations, industry action, adoption of alternatives and public participation. While challenges remain, India seems to be firmly on the path towards more sustainable solutions through its integrated set of policies and initiatives. Continued coordinated efforts across all fronts hold promise to significantly reduce plastic waste and transition the country towards more environment friendly alternatives. With successful outcomes, India’s regulatory approach could inspire meaningful global action against the scourge of plastic pollution in the future.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public Source, Desk Research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.