The government may soon roll out stringent norms and impose heavy fines on corporates, including hospitality industry, mobile manufacturers and packaging industry, for failing to stop use of plastic. Under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which the government plans to implement effectively, manufacturers, brand owners, and importers of products should realise and bear responsibility for environmental impact of their products through the product life-cycle.

The EPR includes selection of raw material and design to manufacture a product, its packaging and efficient manufacturing process that would minimize impact on environment. The producers should also develop a mechanism to collect used plastic product from their consumers and get it recycled.

Considered a solution to the growing hazard of plastic waste, EPR was introduced in the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2011 and was largely redefined in PWM 2016 where in producers, importers and brand owners who introduce products in the market were asked to take primary responsibility for collection of used multi-layered plastic sachets or pouches or packaging. Environment experts claim that the implementation of EPR has not been as effective and regulated and it was proposed to be.

Government is of the view that EPR schemes could be strengthened to support wide-spread adoption of secondary raw material in markets and stringent guidelines could be laid for the purpose. "We can reduce this uncertainty by adopting standards and manufacturers could be encouraged to look for alternatives and substitute their virgin feedstock with recycled materials in their production processes," said an official in the environment ministry.

“We are also planning to strengthen capacities of Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Board to monitor and evaluate the implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules. If needed, fines will also be imposed," said the official.

Currently, Plastic Waste Management Rules are central tools that the government uses to address plastic pollution in India. However, monitoring and enforcement systems have not yet been fully implemented for effective implementation at sub-national level.

“EPR is basically a strategy to add all of the environmental costs associated with a product throughout the product life cycle to the market price of that product. So if some minimum requirements for EPR schemes are established, this could streamline the whole implementation processes," the official said.

“One of the key policy instruments to facilitate this process is developing standards for secondary raw materials, which is a major barrier to uptake of recycled materials and create demand for secondary raw materials," he said.

Complying with the rules, some companies and hotel chains have started taking steps towards environment safety. To eliminate plastic waste and ensure more sustainable carbon footprint, Hyatt Regency Delhi, last week, announced the launch of its in-house water bottling plant. The fully automated water bottling plant aims to end the use of approximately 1.08 million plastic bottles a year, by switching to reusable glass bottles. This process saves 28 tonne of plastic waste every year.

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