[Burning Issue] Amendment in Plastic Waste Management Rules

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Change in Plastic Waste Management Rules

  1. The Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change amended the Plastic Waste Management Rules (2016)
  2. According to the amendment, manufacturers, suppliers, and sellers of plastic (and plastic products) across the nation will now be required to phase out, over a period of two years, all such products which have no alternative use or are non-recyclable and non-energy recoverable
  3. This move was preceded by a state-wide ban in Maharashtra on the manufacture, usage, sale (wholesale and retail), distribution, storage and import of plastic bags and all disposable products made out of plastic

What comprises Plastic waste? What are its components?

  1. The plastics waste constitutes two major categories of plastics – Thermoplastics and Thermoset plastics.
  2. Thermoplastics constitute 80% and Thermoset constitutes approximately 20% of total post-consumer plastics waste generated in India.
  3. The Thermoplastics are recyclable plastics which include; Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Low-Density Poly Ethylene (LDPE), Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), High-Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE), Polypropylene(PP), Polystyrene (PS) etc.
  4. The Thermoset plastics contains alkyd, epoxy, ester, melamine formaldehyde, phenol formaldehyde, silicon, urea formaldehyde, polyurethane, metalized and multilayer plastics etc.

Need for this step

  1. India has an uninspiring record when it comes to handling waste
  2. India’s plastic waste is estimated officially at 26,000 tonnes a day
  3. If the Centre and the States had got down to dealing with the existing regulations on plastic waste management and municipal solid waste, a ban would not even have become necessary.
  4. Specifications for the recycling of different types of plastics were issued two decades ago by the Bureau of Indian Standards but it was not implemented on the ground
  5. It is stated that 15, 000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day, out of which 9, 000 tonnes is collected and processed, but 6, 000 tonnes of plastic waste is not being collected.
  6. In particular, the plastic carry bags are the biggest contributors of littered waste and every year, millions of plastic bags end up in to the environment vis-a-vis soil, water bodies, water courses and it takes an average of one thousand years to decompose completely.

Criticisms of this step

  1. To the people employed in the industry, it could mean the shutdown of factories and potential job losses
  2. To the consumer, it would mean choosing between alternatives that are either too expensive, impractical or not as easily available
  3. The unrealistic timeline for the implementation of the plastic ban has caught all stakeholders unawares, making it extremely difficult to comply with.

Way Forward

NUDGING CONSUMERS

  1. The government can nudge rather than coerce citizens to demand and use less plastic
  2. One way of doing this would be to give discounts to customers who bring their own bags, or reward points for not requesting a plastic bag—as opposed to fining, penalizing, or charging high prices
  3. Another nudge, which has been extremely successful globally in donation scenarios, is the “opt-out model”. Here, customers would by default be considered as opted-in for non-plastic items, forcing them to manually opt-out to choose otherwise.

Conclusion

  1. Plastics became popular because they are inexpensive, can be easily produced and offer great convenience
  2. Their wild popularity has turned them into a scourge
  3. We need substitutes for plastic, incentives to re-use, and better waste disposal

Question

  1. Plastic waste has become a nuisance today. In this context critically discuss the latest amendments to the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016. 

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