Extender Producer Responsibility update: India

By Adam Jobling, Global EPR Researcher

In a 2019 speech, India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi made a firm commitment to tackle the use of unnecessary plastic. He claimed that: “Hygiene, protection of environment and protection of life were of keen interest to Gandhi. Plastic is dangerous to all these three goals. So, we need to reach the goal of ending single-use plastic by 2022.”

The legislative effort to meet this commitment is now underway, with three sets of regulations concerning India’s Plastic Waste Management Rules, which were developed this year.

The first of these is the ‘Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules 2021’, which was recently passed in August. This amendment prohibits the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of several single-use plastic products from July 2022. This includes items like plastic cutlery, cigarette packets, balloons, candy and ice cream sticks. From September 2021, plastic bags with a thickness of less than 75 microns will also be prohibited and, from December 2022, this will increase to 120 microns.

This amendment also modifies the existing rules created in 2016 around extended producer responsibility for plastic packaging. The ruling originally made producers legally responsible for the management of their plastic packaging waste, but at times it was unclear what was required of producers to meet this obligation. The amendment improves this by requiring guidelines to be issued periodically, and the ‘Draft Notification of Regulation on the Extended Producer Responsibility under Plastic Waste Management Rules’ has been developed as a result.

Now, all producers, brand owners and importers of plastic packaging or products that contain them must register on an online portal developed by the Central Pollution Control Board. This portal helps businesses to meet concrete targets for the proportion of packaging they cover the cost of, recycle, and reuse, enabling them to reach recycled content targets for packaging they place on the market. However, these targets are ambitious. By 2026-27, producers must average 60% recycled content in their rigid plastic packaging, as well as recycle upwards of 60% of their total obligated plastic packaging waste.

To further catalyse plastic recycling in the country, the government has also introduced the ‘Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2021’. The original ‘Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016’ placed a blanket ban on the use of recycled plastic in packaging for ready-to-eat-or-drink foods. This amendment overturns the ban and permits up to 100% recycled content, subject to the development of appropriate standards by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Such standards are yet to be announced, but this is likely to be a priority issue following the passage of this amendment.

As India demonstrates, governments are turning to a range of different policy mechanisms to address the problem of packaging waste. Obligations on producers are only going to get more complex over time – and companies must be proactive to ensure that they remain compliant.

The Global EPR team at ecoveritas has a detailed knowledge of international regulations and, with our new international Packaging EPR Matrix, we can help you understand your obligations and avoid being caught out. Speak to us today to find out more.

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