Author: Aditi Prabhu
Student, School of Law Christ University, Bangalore
The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 12th,2021, to phase out the use of Single Use Plastics (SUP's) by 2022, forbid their manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and usage nationally as of July 1, 2022.
This policy was implemented in response to the world's adoption of the resolution on single-use plastics and sustainable nitrogen management that India had piloted at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019.
What are Single Use Plastics?
Single Use Plastics, as the name suggests, is the type of plastic which is produced to dispose it after a single use. They are produced mostly from chemicals derived from fossil fuels (petrochemicals), heated at a very high temperature, synthesizing - long, non-natural molecular chains. Every person adopts Single Use Plastics in their day-to-day life. From straws, water bottles, earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic bags, and so on.
Impact of Single Use Plastics on the environment
Plastic, though convenient, is one of the increasing causes of global pollution. Being a man-made chemical product, they are not biodegradable, i.e, they cannot be decomposed by bacteria. We can only imagine the deep impact it has on the environment as it is being used very frequently since its success in the 1970s. It takes plastic more than 400 years to degrade, unfortunately, partially degrading into microplastics that will continue to exist in the environment.
Most of the plastic finds its way into the ocean, which is harmful to marine life as plastic leaches harmful chemicals into the water-polluting and killing Marine life.
Plastic is also responsible for contributing to climate change at every stage of its life, from production to disposal, they emit many greenhouse gases. The by-product of the degradation of plastic, i.e. microplastic, in the ocean may impact the ability of the ocean to absorb and accumulate carbon dioxide.
There are multiple studies indicating, that plastic has not only affected the health of animals but has been found in Humans, which can affect our bodily functioning adversely - from reproductory abnormalities to hormonal imbalances- and is said to be affecting the younger population more.
The main disposal methods for plastic are landfilling, recycling, or incineration, each of which emits greenhouse gases. Landfilling although has substantial other concerns, produces the most negligible greenhouse emissions overall. Recycling is good from an emissions perspective since it replaces new virgin plastic on the market, despite having a modest emissions profile. The primary source of emissions from the treatment of discarded plastic is incineration, which produces exceptionally high emissions, and its use is anticipated to rise significantly on a global level- which is alarming.
Analysis of the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules,2021
With this amendment, the Government hopes to outlaw single-use plastic objects with little practical purpose and a high risk to become litter. The amendment defines what constitutes single-use plastic and subsequently seeks to ban the same, which applies to all the business entities engaged in producing plastic/plastic items, and is required to minimize and ultimately stop producing, delivering, and selling single-use plastic goods. Additionally, it has been mandated that plastic bag thickness be adhered to, with 75 microns of thickness beginning on September 30 2021, and 120 microns starting December 30 2022.
Amendments relating to marking and labelling have further been laid down such as mentioning the thickness of the bag by the producer or brand owner and not just the manufacturer, and plastic packaging to show the registration number of the manufacturer or producer or brand owner. The Amendment also defines the method in which plastic waste is processed as the process by which plastic waste is handled for reuse, recycling, co-processing or transformation into new products.
Along with the notification, the Government has also released guidelines on ‘ Extended Producer Responsibility ’ for plastic packaging, established control rooms at the federal and state levels, and created special enforcement teams to look for any unauthorized production, importation, stocking, distribution, sale, or use of products made of single-use plastic that are prohibited. States and Union Territories have been asked to set up border checkpoints to stop inter-state movement of any banned single-use plastic items.
The Government has also launched the CPCB Grievance Redressal App and also has a mascot “PRAKRITI” to further spread awareness to curb the single-use plastic crisis. The Ministry believes that the ban will be successful if all stakeholders work together effectively, take coordinated action, and there is enthusiastic engagement from the public.Companies have raised many concerns, some even asking for an extension of one year to adapt to the Government’s policy.
Starting July 1, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change issued a ban on the usage of single-use plastic nationwide, adopting the resolution they piloted in the 4th UNEA in 2019. The use of single-use plastic has been prevalent worldwide since the early 1980’s when it became famous. Multiple studies pointed out that plastic has been affecting our environment by not only affecting marine life but increasing global warming. Plastic being a waste that cannot be decomposed completley, is said to always exist in our environment.Recently, studies have also pointed out that plastic has also been found in humans and can affect us significantly.
The new rules with regards to Plastic waste management issued by the Government, they hope to phase out the production,distribution,sale,etc. Of single use plastic which has a high potential for littering.The amendment rules have also mandated the increase in the thickness of the plastic to 120 microns, laid down the method in which the plastic waste needs to be recycled, reused, transformed into new products, etc. Government has also released guidelines on ‘ Extended Producer Resposibility ’, and a CPCB Grievance Redressal App and a mascot to help spread awareness to help curb the use of single use plastic.
Though the Government has taken a lot of positive steps that may ban the use of Single-use plastic, it now depends on the proper and rigorous implementation of this policy to witness a positive impact on the environment.
 Thompson RC, Moore CJ, vom Saal FS, Swan SH. Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009;364(1526):2153-2166. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0053  Centre for International Environmental Lawl L. (n.d.). Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet. Center for International Environmental Law, https://www.ciel.org/project-update/plastic-climate-the-hidden-costs-of-a-plastic-planet/ , July 7, 2022.  Plastic Waste Management Amendment rules 2021, Rule 3(ii)(qa), Acts of Parliament, 2021 (India).  https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1837518