The article is written by Nikhil Thakur, a student of Manav Rachna University. In this article, the author has attempted to explain in detail the widening nature of the plastic waste management rules from the perspective of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
In India, the increase in urbanisation, industrialization, and economic growth has led to the expansion of plastic waste and has become a major conundrum. The augment in the contemporary population and the requirement for a standard of living has further intensified the situation. To tackle the increment in plastic waste and ensure proper management of plastic waste in India, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) notified the rules concerning plastic waste management in the year 2011 which was further reconstructed in the year 2016.
Provisions of plastic waste management
There are a few provisions when environmental compensation is levied for non-compliance with the rules enshrined under the Plastic Waste Management:
- Rule 4(c) encourages the carrying of virgin or recycled plastic and prohibits the use of plastic whose thickness is less than 50 microns.
- Rule 4(d) also prohibits the use of plastic, the thickness of which is less than 50 micron level for packaging and wrapping purposes, unless the use of such plastic impairs the functionality of the product.
- Rule 4(e) states that the unauthorized or unregistered plastic manufacturer shall not sell plastic varieties as raw material to any producer.
- Rule 4(f) states that the packaging of gutkha, tobacco, and pan masala shall not be made of plastic and the sachets that are made of plastic shall not be used for the purpose of storing.
- Rule 4(h) promotes the use of compostable or recycled plastic having an Indian standard tag. Further, the seller or manufacturer of the compostable plastics shall be certified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
- Rule 4(i) prohibits the use of plastic in any form for packaging of gutkha, pan masala and tobacco in all forms. It further prohibits the use of Vinyl Acetate, Maleic Acid, Vinyl Chloride and Copolymer for packaging.
- Rule 6(1) and 7 directs every local body to establish infrastructure for collecting, storing, transporting, disposing of, etc. of plastic waste.
- Rule 6(2)(g) and 7(c) explicitly prohibit the open burning of plastic.
- Rule 8(1)(a) recommends the waste generator to lower the generation of plastic waste as far as possible and also separate plastic waste at the source.
- Rule 8(1)(b) directs the waste generator to avoid littering of plastic waste.
- Rule 9(2) states that the producers, importers and brand owners shall be responsible for the collection of multi-layered plastic sachets because they are the ones who have introduced the same in the market. The prime objective of this rule is to collect the plastic waste generated at the source.
- Rule 13(1) and 13(2) prohibits any person from operating manufacturing of carrying bags, recycled bags and multi-layered plastic, if no registration has been granted by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or the Pollution Control Committee (PCC) of the Union Territory.
Moreover, for renewal of registration, the producer shall fill the Form I and shall submit it to the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or the Pollution Control Committee of the Union Territory in case the producer is operating in only one state or Union Territory. If in case, the operation is executed in more than 2 states or Union Territories, then the form shall be submitted to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
- Rule 13(3) directs every person who is recycling or processing the plastic waste to fabricate an application and submit it to the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or the Pollution Control Committee for approval of registration under Form II.
- Rule 13(4) states that every manufacturer of the plastic that is used as raw material by the producer shall make an application for registration or renewal of registration under Form III before the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or the Pollution Control Committee.
- Rule 14(1) directs and prohibits the use and selling of plastic bags by retailers, shopkeepers and street vendors that are not labelled as per Indian standards.
Assessment of Environment Compensation (EC)
The Environment Compensation for infringing or violating the rules enshrined under the Plastic Waste Management is based on:
Plastic waste management cost
Any cost incurred because of the management of plastic waste is determined through the information rendered by the numerous local bodies. The cost incurred while managing the plastic waste is categorised into the following:
Collection and transportation
The standard cost that is incurred while collecting and transporting solid waste is ₹ 2000 per/ton of waste.
Material recovery facility
The standard cost for establishing a material recovery facility of 100 TPD (Total Plastic Debris) plastic is ₹7 crore, hence establishing a material recovery facility of 1 TPD plastic is ₹7 Lakhs.
Refuse Derived Fuel facility
Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is a fuel that is extracted from waste like commercial waste, municipal solid waste and industrial waste. The standard cost of establishing an RDF facility is ₹ 12.5 crore and hence establishing an RDF facility of 1 TPD is ₹ 12.5 lakhs.
The operation cost of the RDF facility
The operational cost of the RDF facility is ₹ 1200/ ton while the transportation cost is ₹ 300/ plastic waste.
Section 15(1) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
The said Section imposes a penalty of imprisonment that is extendable up to five years along with the fine that is extendable up to ₹ 1 lakh for infringing or violating the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
If the violation is continuous, in such a case additional fine may be levied that is extendable up to ₹ 5000 for every day of such continuation.
Penal action against the violation of Plastic Waste Management Rules
The author has enumerated four states/ UTs along with the penal actions that are taken for the violation of the provisions or rules enshrined under Plastic Waste Management:
In Delhi, the penalty for carrying plastic bags that are having a thickness of fewer than 50 microns is ₹ 50,000/ unit. While the penalty for burning plastic in an open area is also ₹ 50,000/ unit.
In Punjab, a show-cause notice is issued in case the registration was not obtained and still the operation is carried on. Similarly, a show-cause notice is issued, if no action plan has been received in compliance with the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. Further, if anyone is found carrying a plastic bag having a thickness below the standard shall be imposed with a fine (fine depends upon the number of units used).
In Puducherry, if any manufacturer is found to have been producing plastic bags having a thickness less than 50 microns shall be liable to the closure of the business. A similar penalty is imposed in case the recycling of plastic is not in conformity with the local areas. If anyone is found to be in possession of banned plastic, he/she shall be liable for the seizure of that plastic.
Andaman and Nicobar
Appropriate penalties and fines are imposed on the basis of the number of units of plastic bags found and sold that are having a thickness of more than 50 microns.
In the case of Jitender Yadav v. Union of India & Others (2016), the National Green Tribunal issued a direction that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is empowered to prescribe down the compensation regime against the polluter pay principle through the appointment of an experts committee.
The Hon’ble National Green Tribunal in Central Pollution Control Board v. State of Andaman & Nicobar & Ors. (2017), vide order dated 4/12/2019, issued few important directions concerning Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and upheld the order passed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) concerning the execution of thickness standards for plastic bags, prohibiting and curbing the littering of plastic waste, submitting annual report along with action plan, etc.
Further, NGT accepted the fact that the states have fizzled to provide information and even failed to take preventive action and regulatory measures as enshrined under the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules. NGT observed that though the ban was imposed on using plastic bags, there was no enforcement procedure that makes such a ban useless. Besides this, the burning of plastic and its littering across the railway tracks and on streets is still a common practice.
NGT took corrective measures by directing the states and Union Territories to comply with the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. Along with this, it further directs the states to furnish all the reports as asked. Moreover, the NGT imposed a fine of ₹1 crore upon the infringing state for not complying with the PWM Rules, 2016.
In the instant case, the NGT summarised its observation or ordered:
- That national framework for extended producer liability shall be concluded and implemented within a three month time period.
- That the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shall furnish its compensation report as soon as possible.
- That the states and the Union Territories shall adopt the action plan as soon as possible and provide information to CPCB as per the recommendation of CPCB itself.
- NGT emphasised the establishment of an institutional mechanism that may ensure:
- That no unauthorized or unregistered plastic manufacturing or recycling units are in function.
- That no manufacturing unit shall be in operation without in conformity with the local area.
- That no plastic bags having more than 50 microns thickness shall be manufactured, sold, bought, etc.
- That there shall be proper regulation upon the use of thermocol, polystyrene cups, plates.
- That there shall be the establishment of a special environment squad that may look after the littering and waste spread of plastic in the city, town and the state.
- That the states and the Union Territories shall in cumulative format submit a compliance report to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on a quarterly basis. Further, CPCB shall compile those documents and submit them before the NGT.
Recommendations from the Central Pollution Control Board
- The Central Pollution Control Board directed the State Pollution Control Board to submit the annual report and action plan in compliance with the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
- The Central Pollution Control Board directed the State Pollution Control Board to direct the Urban Development Department (UDD) to establish a mechanism for collecting, segregating and disposing of the plastic waste.
- The Central Pollution Control Board directed the State Pollution Control Board to furnish all the information related to the method utilized in disposing of the plastic waste.
- The Central Pollution Control Board directed the State Pollution Control Board to ensure that no unauthorized plastic manufacturing and recycling units are under function.
- Further, it was directed to stop the manufacturing and distribution of plastic films having a thickness of more than 50 microns.
- The Central Pollution Control Board directed the State Pollution Control Board and Urban Development Department to encourage the use of compostable carry bags that are certified by the CPCB.
- The Central Pollution Control Board directed the State Pollution Control Board and municipalities to ensure no illicit manufacturing of plastic is under operation.
- The Central Pollution Control Board directed the State Pollution Control Board and Urban Development Department to make sure that plastic littering is prohibited near the public, religious, drains, river and sea beaches.
- Further, there shall be no burning of plastic waste.
In India, the issue of littering and unauthorized manufacturing, selling and distributing of plastic bags having a thickness of fewer than 50 microns is common. Besides having stringent laws in this regard, still, the states and Union Territories have miserably failed because of the lack of an appropriate enforcement mechanism.
Despite all the odds, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has taken proactive measures in curbing the said practice and clear its stand on plastic waste in the case of Central Pollution Control Board v. State of Andaman & Nicobar & Ors. (2017), and even ordered and directed the appropriate authorities to take appropriate action to control the spread of plastic waste.
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