In a rigorous first step to tackle the problem of plastic pollution and its adverse impacts on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the central government in India has announced a number of amendments to the Plastic Waste Management Rules dating from 2016. Called Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021, the new rules come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.
Under the new rules, introduced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change,single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential are being phased out - and will be completely banned from 1 July, 2022. The items to which the ban applies are: earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene [Thermocol] for decoration; as well as plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
However, in stark contrast to the laws on similar banned single-use plastic items in the EU, the new rules do not apply to commodities made of compostable plastic.
In addition, from 30 September 2021, plastic carrier bags, must have a minimum thickness of 75 microns, rising to 120 microns with effect from 31 December 2022.
Moreover, all plastic packaging waste not covered by these rules must be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility of the Producer, importer and Brand owner (PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. The central government will amend the plastic waste management law to make rules for the effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility.
The Ministry has also instituted a national-level task force that will coordinate efforts to eliminate the single-use plastic items on the list and to drive the effective implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. At the same time, it has launched an awareness campaign that includes a pan-India essay writing competition in the schools on the theme. To encourage innovation in the development of alternatives to identified single-use plastic items and digital solutions to plastic waste management, the India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021, has been organised for students at institutes for higher education, and for startups recognised under the Startup India Initiative.