Extended Producer Responsibility is what seeing another light of the day in India, although being introduced long back.
The Environment Ministry has supplied a new dossier that mandates the producers of plastic packaging material operating in the country to collect all of their produce by 2024.
It shall also be ensured by the producers engaged that a minimum percentage of this recovered plastic shall be recycled and consequently used in further production.
The ministry has also mooted of a system that will facilitate the dealings between plastic producers and users, through the generation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates as they trade in them.
How much do we lose with plastic waste in our lives?
According to a report by PlastIndia Foundation, at least 5.5 million metric tonnes (MMT) of plastic gets recycled annually in India.
This is bare 60 per cent of total plastic waste produced in the country.
Within this lucky to be recycled waste, 70 per cent is processed at registered facilities, 20 per cent gets recycled by the unskilled labor in unorganized sector, and remaining 10 per cent at homes.
Out of this, a portion of plastic that cannot be further broken down or recycled, such as multi-layered plastic materials, can then be sent for the intended disposal.
This waste find uses in processes such as road construction, waste to energy conversion or the methods prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board.
Thereby, leaving the rest 40 per cent of the total plastic waste in India at the mercy of Nature, to be broken down and disposed by scavengers, clinging to the roads and drains, besides waterbodies and lands.
Even the two major river systems traversing through India are evident of this menace, if we can believe the statistics by United Nations.
The Indus carrying 164,332 tons and Meghna-Brahmaputra-Ganges mesh carrying 72,845 tons deliver some of the world’s highest amounts of plastic debris to the oceans.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has analyzed that if plastic waste is contained properly, the Indian recycling industry will foster a significant boost of US $2 billion.
How have the new draft rules categorized plastics in India?
Plastics being used for packaging currently in the Indian market can be segregated into three types.
Category 1 being the “rigid” plastic; category 2 includes “flexible plastic”, either single or multiple layered (more than one layer worn of different types of plastic) and category 3 composing the multi-layered plastic packaging (with at least one layer of plastic and one layer of material other than plastic).
When was the Extended Producer Responsibility introduced in India?
EPR was first introduced in India way back in 2012 to collect and process electronic waste. But since the notification of Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016, plastic manufacturers came under the ambit of EPR.
It mandated the plastic packaging producers including manufacturers, importers and even the brand owners could be held accountable for the efficient and sustainable management of end waste once that has been dejected by consumer after use.
Government’s Plastic targets in tandem:
50% of the category 1 plastic and 30% of categories 2 and 3 plastics will have to be recycled in 2024 with progressively higher targets every year.
A centralized website will be created wherein the plastic producers will regularly apprise the Government of the amount of plastic they would produce annually.
Companies will be made to collect at least 35% of their respective plastic target in 2021-22, gradually increasing it to 70% by 2022-23 and 100% by 2024.
Any shortfall in achieving these targets will require the trading of certificates and an “environmental compensation” to be levied in such case.
Even a considerable 40% refund for fines will be provided to those who begin to meet their targets within 3 years.
Else the fund money will be sent to an escrow account to be utilized in the collection and recycling/end of life disposal of uncollected waste.
Can we be hopeful?
As Indian and world citizens, we are still struggling for life with clean air, the pandemic, clean and hygienic food and basic minimum income.
However, with growing penetration of plastics in human and natural world, there is greater threat to our own existence.
But India has taken consistent and considerable steps to eliminate another existing threat. With persistent efforts to clean our environment can benefit us more in the long run.
Policies need to be framed in such direction. We ought to be heading the right way!