Why India has not been successful at eliminating plastic pollution.


India wants its biggest plastic polluters to clean up their mess but new rules introduced in February 2022 have done little to reduce plastic pollution. Only a proportion of producers, importers and brand owners have registered on a centralised portal that would track their plastic collection and recycling targets. While these targets are set by the government, they are based on the self-declared volume of plastic manufactured or imported by those brands.

Further, achievement of these targets will be certified by recyclers, which might leave room for corruption. Companies also have the option of purchasing credits if they fail to meet their targets, which might lead to lax implementation. In effect, experts say, the rules will do little to end hazardous plastic waste.

In February 2022, years after conceptualising Extended Producer Responsibility for plastic through the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, India notified guidelines for the policy. Based on the “polluter pays” principle, the guidelines lay down responsibilities of all stakeholders engaged in the plastic industry and fines for violations.

The guidelines cover producers, importers and brand owners (online platforms, supermarkets, retail chains) or PIBOs of plastic, as well as plastic waste processors. Among the categories of plastic to be collected and recycled under the Extended Producer Responsibility are rigid packaging, flexible packaging of single layer or multilayer plastic sheets such as plastic sachets or pouches, multilayer plastic packaging and carry bags made of composite plastic.

India is the fifth highest generator of plastic waste in the world. It banned certain single-use plastic products from July 1, but that ban has largely been unsuccessful.

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