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NEW DELHI : Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has amended the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 to fast-track the elimination of Single Use Plastic.

The gazette notification issued by the ministry on 16 February mentions four plastic packaging categories under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and sets the EPR target of 70% for 2022-23. As an environmental protection strategy, EPR is mandatory in India and as per the notification, registration would be compulsory. This essentially means that no entity, be it a producer or importer, can carry out any such business without registering themselves. This comes in the backdrop of prohibition of identified single use plastic items from 1 July.

The four categories are; rigid plastic packaging; flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet carry bags, plastic sachet or pouches; multi-layered plastic packaging; and plastic sheets used for packaging as well as carry bags made of compostable plastics. The Central Pollution Control Board will also establish an online system for the registration as well as for filing of annual returns by producers, importers and brand-owners, and plastic waste processors.

Experts say that the classification is a step in the right direction.

“The classification into four categories will provide clarity in identification and management of different types of plastic packaging differently. The provision for carrying forward the unfulfilled EPR obligations will ensure that there is no escaping the responsibilities through mere payment of compensation," said Nawneet Vibhaw, partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, mandate the generators of plastic waste to take steps to minimize generation of plastic waste, prevent littering of plastic waste, and ensuring segregated storage of waste at source among other measures. The rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators, retailers and street vendors to manage plastic waste.

“There is a very strong penal provision that is implied in the notification which suggests that if found guilty, the company will be deregistered and they will not be able to do any business in plastic. One of the fundamental drawbacks of this rule is that it sets a very high penal condition which will ensure a large number of cases that will be filed for even minor violations," added Chandra Bhushan. president and CEO at International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST)

At the COP26 summit in Glasgow last November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged reducing the country’s carbon emission by one billion tonnes by 2030, reducing the carbon intensity of the economy by less than 45% by the end of the decade and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070.

The entities covered under the EPR obligations and provisions of the newly issued guidelines include plastic packaging producers, importers, brand owners, online platforms and marketplaces and supermarkets and retail chains other than those, which are micro and small enterprises as per the criteria set out by MSME ministry.The notification also specified imposition of environmental compensation and said that the plastics which cannot be recycled will be sent for end-of-life disposal such as road construction, waste to energy, waste to oil, and cement kilns.

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