Salient features of Plastic Waste Management Rules 2022 and its second amendment

The MoEF&CC (Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change) announced the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2022, in January. These rules notified the instructions on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic packaging. The ministry felt the need to amend Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 to fast-track the elimination of single-use plastics and promote its alternatives. PWM Rules 2022 intends to ban single-use plastics with low utility and high littering potential, effective from 1st July 2022. Notably, an amendment was also made to these rules named Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules 2022. Through this amendment, the definitions for specific terms have been notified. This blog clearly explains every feature of these rules in detail.

Why is there a need for Plastic Waste Management in India?

India is reckoned as one of the world's largest importers, producers and consumers of plastic material, a major part of which is used for packaging. The use of plastic is estimated to have increased substantially during the novel Corona Virus pandemic due to the increase in online shopping. Thus, Plastic waste management in India is becoming a challenging task. Though its use is increasing daily while safe disposal and plastic waste recycling have yet to be strictly implemented. This has resulted in waste piles in oceans and landfills on the Earth. Consequently, the plastic share in municipal waste is believed to have increased from around 10% to about 20%. The tricky part is that more than forty percent of the total plastic consumption is in the form of single-use products, such as plastic carry bags. In fact, these bags have high littering potential and limited period utility. India has been actively working towards effective plastic waste management by introducing PWM rules and amending them gradually.

What is Plastic Waste Management?

PWM means managing the plastic waste produced and processing it to make it reusable. The main activities of PWM are -

  • (a) Waste collection, treatment, transport and disposal
  • (b) Monitoring, control and regulation of the waste collection, production, transportation, treatment and disposal
  • (c) Prevention of waste generation via in-process modifications, recycling and reuse.

What are the highlights of the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2022?

The following describes the salient features of the PWM Rules 2022 -

1. Classification of Plastics

The new rules classify plastics into three categories:

Category 1: Rigid plastic packaging

Category 2: Flexible plastic packaging of single or multilayer (more than one layer with different plastic types), covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches and plastic sheets

Category 3: Multi-layered plastic packaging (at least a layer of plastic & at least one layer of material other than plastic)

Category 4: Plastic sheet or like utilised for packaging & carry bags made of compostable plastics

2. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

EPR includes recycling, reuse, use of recycled plastic content and end-of-life disposal by producers, importers and brand owners (PIBOs). EPR for PIBO implies a producer's responsibility for the environmentally sound management of the product until the end of its life.

3. Plastic Packaging

The reuse of rigid plastic packaging material is mandated in the guidelines to decrease usage of fresh plastic material for packaging. The compulsory prescription of a minimum level of recycling of packaging waste collected under EPR and the use of recycled plastic content will subsequently decrease its consumption and support the recycling of such waste.

4. Recycling and reusing

Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2022 mandate reusing and recycling a certain percentage of plastic produced by importers, manufacturers and brand owners.

5. Environmental compensation

An environmental compensation (EC) will be imposed depending upon the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP). This compensation will be imposed concerning the non-fulfilment of EPR targets by PIBOs for protecting and improving the quality of the environment. Also, it will be imposed for controlling, preventing and abating environmental pollution. For the unversed, the Polluter Pays Principle mandates the person polluting the environment to pay fine for the damage caused and return the surroundings to their original state regardless of the intent. However, compensation payment does not absolve the liability. Eventually, the unfulfilled EPR obligations for a specific year are carried forward to the next year for three years.

6. EPR Certificates

PWM Rules 2022 allow for the purchase and sale of surplus EPR certificates. This will establish a market mechanism for effective plastic waste management.

7. Committee formation

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will create a committee under the chairmanship of its official. The Committee recommends methods to the ministry for amendments to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) guidelines and their practical implementation.

8. Centralised Online Portal

The government has instructed CPCB to develop a centralised online portal to register and file annual returns by PIBO. One can also obtain PWP Authorisation for plastic packaging waste via this portal. Also, it would serve as the single point data repository concerning guidelines and orders related to implementing EPR for plastic packaging under PWM Rules, 2016.

Significance of the PWM Rules 2022

  • Domestic targets: PWM Rules 2022 will help the Government of India (GoI) meet its targets ineffectively.
  • Manage high usage: There are over 1.3 billion people in India whose plastic usage has significantly increased during the pandemic. Plastic Waste Management Rules 2022 will help manage the rising demand for this material and decrease the associated pollution. 
  • Ease of trading: PWM Rules 2022 intends to create a market for purchasing, selling and sharing EPR certificates along the carbon trading mechanism for mitigating climate change.
  • Circular Economy: The rules flourish a circular economy in the plastic industry by boosting sharing, recycling, leasing, trading and safe disposal of end-of-life materials.
  • Substitute promotion: The stricter norms and enhanced penalties will induce the manufacturers to switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives like jute.
  • Landfill reduction: India is witnessing a rise in landfill creation, especially across major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, etc. The Ghazipur landfill in Delhi is soon expected to outmatch the height of Qutub Minar. The promising norms of these rules will help eliminate the piles of such waste.
  • Annual report on EPR Portal: Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) or State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) are tasked to submit a yearly report on the EPR portal concerning its fulfilment by PIBOs and PWPs in the UTs/states to the CPCB.

How India Promotes Plastic Waste Management?

In order to promote Plastic Waste Management effectively, India has been a part of specific initiatives like -

  • India Plastics Pact
  • Swachh Bharat Mission
  • Project REPLAN
  • GoLitter Partnerships Project
  • Un-Plastic Collective

Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2022

Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2022, were issued to emphasise phasing out of specific single-use plastic items from 1st July and instruct to raise the thickness of plastic carry bags to above 120 microns from 31st December. MoEF&CC believes that the second amendment rules align with the guidelines on EPR on plastic packaging issued previously. Besides the specifications for recycling, reuse and use of recycled plastic content, the norms explain the end-of-life disposal of plastic packaging that cannot be recycled.

What are the salient features of the Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules 2022?

The followings are the highlights of the PWM (Second Amendment) Rules, 2022 -

1. Biodegradable Plastic

The rules specify biodegradable plastics and facilitate a statutory framework for their use as an alternative material. As per the rules, biodegradable plastics are plastics except for compostable plastics, which undergo degradation by biological processes under ambient environment (in water or terrestrial) conditions. Biodegradable plastics don't leave any micro-plastics or distinguishable/visible/toxic residue, which has adverse environmental impacts. Also, such plastic adheres to the norms of the (BIS) Bureau of Indian Standards and is certified by the CPCB. Until standards are announced, biodegradable plastics must conform to tentative standards.

2. Penalty

PWM (Second Amendment) Rules, 2022, encourage imposing fines or EC under the PPP on those who don't comply with these norms.

3. Certificate

As a transitory method, CPCB will grant provisional certificates (PC) for biodegradable plastics in cases where an interim test report is submitted for an ongoing test, which includes the first component of the IS 17899 T:2022 to prove biodegradability. The PC is valid till 30th June 2023 with the condition that import or biodegradable plastic manufacturing must stop after 31st March 2023. The interim test report must be obtained from the Central Institute of Petrochemical Engineering and Technology or a lab recognised under the Laboratory Recognition Scheme, 2020.

4. Labelling

Carry bags and plastic packaging must have a label with the details like the name and registration number of the P and BOs and their thickness. This provision won't be in case plastic packaging is used for imported goods. Previously this labelling provision was applicable only for plastic carry bags, but now it has been extended to cover all plastic packaging.

5. Ban on the single-use plastic items

The norms encourage phasing out single-use plastic items from 1st July 1. The list of banned items includes wrapping or packaging films around invitation cards, sweet boxes and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners of less than 100-micron thickness, plastic cutlery, stirrers, straws, plastic sticks for balloons and earbuds, etc.

6. Revoking some bans

The import, manufacturing, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of these single-use plastics, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene commodities, is also prohibited even as plastic manufacturer associations have said they aren't prepared to implement such a ban immediately due to a lack of alternatives.

7. End-of-life disposal

It means using plastic waste for producing the energy subject to relevant norms in force, which includes co-processing (e.g. in steel, cement, or any other such industry) or waste to oil, except in cases where feedstock chemicals are generated for further use in the plastic production which may then be considered under recycling or for road construction according to the Indian Road Congress guidelines.

8. EPR for PIBOs

The PIBOs must fulfil EPR for plastic packaging according to the guidelines mentioned in Schedule -II.

9. Conformity to Indian Standards

The compostable plastic materials must conform to the IS/ISO 17088:2021, as amended gradually. Also, the biodegradable plastics must conform to the standard announced by the BIS and certified by the CPCB.

What lies ahead?

A blanket ban is insufficient to stop manufacturers from generating single-use plastic products. Finding substitutes for use-and-throw plastic and guaranteeing alternative livelihoods for waste collectors, plastic producers and other groups engaged in the business will go a long way in solving the problem.

The government must impose fines for not complying with the guidelines and incentivise producers to switch to more sustainable products. Along with proper monitoring, promoting responsible consumerism is also very important. Consumers must bring behavioural change and contribute by not littering and helping in waste segregation and management. Plastic was once considered a miracle material, as its synthetic polymers offer outstanding durability. However, it is destroying marine life and filling up our oceans today. Moreover, plastic waste is even invading our food chain to get into our bodies. The challenges posed by it need to be tackled by ensuring effective plastic waste management and encouraging the use of alternatives. Lack of significant changes in segregation strategies, littering habits or inappropriate use of such norms can adversely affect the environment.

Diksha Khiatani

A writer by day and a reader at night. Emerging from an Engineering background, Diksha has completed her M. Tech in Computer Science field. Being passionate about writing, she started her career as a Writer. She finds it interesting and always grabs time to research and write about Environmental laws and compliances. With extensive knowledge on content writing, she has been delivering high-quality write-ups. Besides, you will often find her with a novel and a cuppa!

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