India needs to finetune plastics recycling guidelines: industry players

Priya Jestin

28-Feb-2022

MUMBAI (ICIS)–India’s policy to reduce its plastic waste by phasing out single-use plastics and mandating recycling by producers, importers and brand owners requires further finetuning to be successful, according to industry players.

While the recycling notification was issued months before the guidelines take effect, the government has yet to streamline the value chain of the entire process.

Under the guidelines on extended producers’ responsibility (EPR) on plastic packaging issued on 18 February, waste generators – which include producers, importers, distributors, brand owners, among others – will be held responsible for the cost of treatment or disposal of post-consumer waste.

The guidelines classified plastics into four categories and will come into effect on 1 July.

Category Type of Plastic Recycling Targets
(10% every year from 2024-25*)
Category 1 Rigid plastic packaging 2024-25: 50%

2027-28: 80%

Category 2 Single layer or multilayer packaging, plastic sheets and covers, carry bags and plastic pouches 2024-25: 30%

2027-28: 60%

Category 3 Multi-layered plastic packaging 2024-25: 30%

2027-28: 60%

Category 4 Carry bags and plastic sheets used for packaging made of compostable plastics 2024-25: 50%

2027-28: 80%

*India’s fiscal year is April-March
Source: India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

“The value chain that will facilitate the EPR needs to be synchronized to improve timelines and capacity,” said Deepak Ballani, director general of industry body All India Plastics Manufacturers Association (AIPMA).

Producers may face difficulties in meeting the timelines specified in the notification, Ballani said, adding that “smaller units that don’t have the required systems in place or the ability to change their systems could face problems”.

The Indian government had released the draft notification of the guidelines for recycling in October 2021, while the ban on specified plastics was announced in August 2021.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recommended imposition of fines on producers that fail to meet their annual targets.

“The guidelines provide a roadmap for businesses to move towards sustainable plastic packaging,” India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav had said.

Recycling will be done by registered plastic waste processors and the CPCB is expected to lay down the procedure for registration of waste processors by May 2022.

Plastics that cannot be recycled can be used for other purposes like road construction, in cement kilns, etc.

The CPCB will establish a centralised online portal which will ensure streamlining of the process and will also provide data on plastic recycling and management in the country.

The AIPMA and other stakeholders expect to hold further consultations with the government to address the bottlenecks they expect to face, Ballani said.

“We plan to ask the government to allow AIPMA to do a collective EPR on behalf of the smaller producers. This will help in compliance and will not cause too many transitional problems for producers,” he added.

While the new rules may seem stringent, the Indian plastics industry should be able to tide over any issues as it is currently on an upswing post the pandemic, said Deepak Lawale, secretary general at the Organisation of Plastic Processors of India (OPPI).

“Agricultural demand for plastic products like pipes and fittings remained constant throughout the pandemic. Now demand from other industries like automotive and spare parts is also picking up,” Lawale said.

The government’s plan to provide tap connections across the country will also increase demand for plastic pipes and fittings, he added.

India has allocated rupee (Rs) 600bn ($8bn) to extend tapped water coverage to 38m households in the fiscal year ending March 2023.

Targeted infrastructure and roadways spending will also help the industry, as the government mandates the use of plastic waste in the construction of roads, Lawale said.

Focus article by Priya Jestin

($1 = Rs 75.29)

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