The Centre has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, prohibiting the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of several single-use plastic items from July 1, 2022.

In June 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India will eliminate all single-use plastic items in the country by 2022, reported PTI.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on Friday said that single-use plastic items such as earbuds, balloons, ice-creams and candies with plastic sticks, plastic flags and thermocol used in decoration will be banned from the specified period.

The use of plastic items that have a thickness of less than 100 microns such as plates, cups, glasses and wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards and cigarette packets, as well as cutlery products like forks, spoons, knives, straw and trays, will also be prohibited.

The ministry also said that the thickness of plastic carry bags will be increased from 50 microns to 75 microns from September 30, 2021, and to 120 microns from December 31, 2022. It said that the move will also allow plastic carry bags to be reused.

“Pollution due to single-use plastic items has become an important environmental challenge confronting all countries,” the ministry said. “In the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India had piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic products pollution, recognizing the urgent need for the global community to focus on this very important issue.”

The government has also asked the states and Union Territories to develop a comprehensive action plan to eliminate single-use plastic items, it said. The ministry said that the government has also organised a two-month-long awareness campaign on single-use plastic.

“To encourage innovation in development of alternatives to identified single-use plastic items and digital solutions to plastic waste management, the India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021, has been organized for students of Higher Educational Institutions and startups recognized under Startup India Initiative,” the statement said.

The statement said that the plastic packaging waste, which is not covered under the notification, shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable manner under the Extended Producer Responsibility policy approach, as per the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.

The approach gives producers the responsibility to treat and dispose the products after their consumption, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental organisation. The statement said that the central government will amend the plastic waste management law to make rules for the effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility.

In order to strengthen the waste management infrastructure, the ministry said that the government has formed a task force and asked the states and Union Territories to do the same at their level.

Also read:

How India plans to get rid of single-use plastic starting 2022

India generates approximately 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste per year. This figure is based on the Central Pollution Control Board’s projection that an estimated 25,940 tonnes per day of plastic waste – equivalent to 1,030 truckloads at 25 tonnes per truck – is generated in the country.

Of this, 15,384 tonnes of plastic waste or nearly 60% is collected and recycled while the remaining 10,556 tonnes of the plastic waste remains uncollected and littered in the environment, former Union minister Prakash Javadekar had told the Lok Sabha in November 2019.

Environmental experts have welcomed this move while plastic manufacturers have expressed reservations and asked for putting off the ban by a year on account of the pandemic-induced economic slump.

Besides manufacturers, the government’s proposed ban on single-use plastic will also affect e-commerce giants such as Amazon India and Flipkart which not only sell plastic items but also use them in packaging.

In September 2020, the National Green Tribunal had pulled up both companies while hearing the plea of a 16-year-old boy on the plastic packaging used by the two companies. The Central Pollution Control Board had submitted in the same case that the two companies are required to fulfil their responsibilities and comply with extended producer responsibility norms under the 2016 rules.