Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Government of India has amended the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 vide notification dated 30.10.2023, and these amendments bring certain insights into the management of plastic waste, particularly related with Extended Producer Responsibility (“EPR”), Compostable Plastic and Biodegradable Plastic technologies. The amendments are significant for
- Raw Material/Master batch manufacturers
- Sellers/Distributors of plastic products and technologies
- Plastic manufacturers
- Brand owners
- Packaging companies
- Packaging intensive companies
- Inclusion of Biodegradable Polymer through a separate category of Plastic-
- Limitation on Usage-
- Reporting on quantity for Biodegradable Plastics-
- EPR- No more a voluntary compliance–
- Deposit return scheme-
- EPR Fees-
- Testing of Biodegradable Plastic-
- Guideline for master batch manufacturers-
The notification dated 07, July 2022 introduced the term ‘Biodegradable Plastic’ providing exemption to this technology from Single Use Plastic (“SUP”) ban. Through the current notification a separate category, i.e., Category V has been created specifically for biodegradable plastics. This significant change addresses the long-standing issue of distinguishing between biodegradable and compostable plastics, providing clarity for both consumers and manufacturers through correct labelling and marking scheme that comes through different testing standards.
Biodegradable plastics, unlike their compostable counterparts, break down naturally over time without needing industrial composting facilities, this differentiates the two kinds on technical grounds. This distinction is crucial in ensuring that biodegradable plastics do not end up contaminating compost facilities or contributing to plastic pollution.
The use of compostable and biodegradable plastics is only permitted for the manufacture of carry bags, sachets used for storing, packing, or selling gutkha, tobacco, and pan masala, as well as other commodities banned under specific rules. The labelling will be made depending upon the test results passed under 17899 and 17899T specifications only as per the last amended notification.
Manufacturers of commodities made from biodegradable plastics are now supposed to report the quantity of such products introduced into the market and the quantity of pre-consumer waste generated- The said reporting requirement shall be effective from April 1, 2024.
Manufacturers and importers of plastic products are now mandatorily required to fulfil their EPR responsibilities as prescribed in the EPR rules. This includes establishing a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to their products on mandatory basis. Every such company irrespective of ‘status’ is supposed to register at the EPR portal and make mandatory disclosures on waste collection and processing work.
The Government has introduced buy back scheme to enhance the EPR Framework, wherein, the producers, Brand Owners, and Manufacturers of Plastic products (irrespective of category, except Biodegradable Plastics) may operate a buy back or deposit return that is aimed at preventing the mixing of plastic with solid waste, ensuring that plastic is managed and collected by the producer itself.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shall determine and adjust the highest and lowest EPR certificate fees every six months or as required.
In case the testing of the Polymer claiming Biodegradable technology is commenced before the laboratory attained its NABL accreditation, the applicant may continue with the production of the said type of plastic unless a fresh report comes from the NABL accredited lab, testing done in accordance with 17899T specification.
Each carry bag or plastic packaging made from biodegradable plastic must bear the label "Biodegradable in [number of days] only in [recipient environment such as land, landfill, water, etc.]." This description will help consumers assess and understand the end-of-life scenario for such products, with clear Life Cycle Analysis in brief.
Manufacturers of plastic raw materials are now required to print instructions on their packaging to prevent the production of items prohibited under the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016. This step aims to ensure that buyers do not engage in the manufacturing of banned items using these materials.
The major amendments introduced vide this notification are highlighting the critical introduction of a separate category for plastic packaging i.e., allowing of gutkha, pan masala, and tobacco packaging sachets to be made by Biodegradable Polymers. Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of EPR compliance and the emphasis on collection back systems for used multi-layered plastic sachets.
The current notification will also help the Government test waters regarding the commercial aspects of Biodegradable Polymer technology in India. There are many applications pending with accredited and non-accredited laboratories, based on which they will provide credibility of their technologies per the standards. The biggest challenge still stands for the industry, to prove their technology doesn’t produce microplastics which can only be done through strict monitoring and fair testing methodology prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board.