A new set of rules that could have various implications on the Indian food industry are the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 which have been introduced and brought into force and effect during March this year, by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
The new Plastic Rules supersede the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011. The Ministry has explained that the reason for the supersession is that the Government of India intends to provide and ensure a better framework for the management of plastic waste which is generated in India and to also reduce the amount of plastic waste that is being generated.
The Plastic Rules while introducing certain new concepts, with the intention of bringing about more regulation and also better managing the plastic waste being generated, also changes certain concepts and requirements that were present in the earlier Plastic Rules. One such significant change that has been introduced by the Plastic Rules is in relation to the thickness required to be maintained in relation to plastic carry bags. The earlier Plastic Rules prescribed a minimum thickness of 40 microns while the present Plastic Rules mandate a minimum of 50 microns. Further, the requirement to maintain the minimum thickness has also been extended to plastic sheets and covers made from plastic sheets. The Plastic Rules, have, however, provided an exception with compliance with the minimum thickness in cases where such thickness affects the functionality of the product.
The Plastic Rules now place more responsibility on local bodies and gram panchayats to ensure proper waste collection as well as treatment and disposal of plastic waste. The Plastic Rules also encourage waste generators, which includes any person generating plastic waste, to minimise the generation of plastic waste and to also segregate the plastic waste in accordance with the various rules that have been prescribed.
While there appear to be certain discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Plastic Rules, especially in relation to the registration requirements prescribed for various categories of persons, the introduction of the Plastic Rules is a step forward in minimising the plastic waste being generated in India. In addition, certain states are also taking up the matter more seriously by introducing a complete ban on the use of plastic items such as carry bags, spoons, plates, etc. One such state is the State of Karnataka which, in terms of a Notification dated March 11, 2016, imposed a complete ban on the manufacture and use of various kinds of plastic items such as cups, plates, spoons, banners, etc.
The Plastic Rules would have a considerable impact on the Indian food industry being one of the largest consumers of plastic material. The Plastic Rules, while keeping in mind its objective of better management of plastic waste being generated, has increased the obligations of manufacturers as well as users of plastic materials such as multilayered packaging material.
This write up is intended to provide a brief introduction to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. This write up will be followed by a more detailed one which will set out the discrepancies and inconsistencies present in the Plastic Rules as well as the increased obligations being placed on manufacturers and users of plastic materials.