The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2024

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The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2024 Blog Image

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • What are Microplastics?
  • The Objective of the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016
  • Need to Amend the Plastic Waste Management Rules
  • Highlights of the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2024

Why in News?

The Environment Ministry has introduced the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2024 to amend the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016.

The amended rules make it harder for makers of disposable plastic ware to label such products as ’biodegradable’ and introduce a stipulation that the makers of disposable plastic must not leave any microplastics behind.

What are Microplastics?

  • Microplastics are defined as any solid plastic particle insoluble in water, with dimensions between 1 µm and 1,000 µm (1 µm is one-thousandth of a millimetre).
  • In recent years, they have been reported as a major source of pollution affecting rivers and oceans.

The Objective of the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016

  • To increase minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate minimum thickness of 50 micron for plastic sheets also to facilitate collection and recycle of plastic waste
  • Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also
  • To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, both in the plastic waste management system.
  • To introduce a collect back system of plastic waste by the producers/brand owners, as per extended producers responsibility.
  • To promote use of plastic waste for road construction as per Indian Road Congress guidelines or energy recovery, or waste to oil, etc.

Need to Amend the Plastic Waste Management Rules

  • Biodegradable plastic and compostable plastic are projected as the two broad kinds of technological fixes to India’s burgeoning problem of plastic waste pollution.
  • Biodegradable plastic involves plastic goods being treated before they are sold.
    • When discarded, the material is expected to decompose naturally over time though there are no tests yet to determine if such plastics completely degrade.
  • Compostable plastics, on the other hand, do degrade, but require industrial or large municipal waste management facilities to do so.
  • The Union government banned single-use plastic in 2022, and recommended the adoption of biodegradable plastic.
    • However, the question of what exactly constituted biodegradable plastic was unanswered.
    • Several firms were left in the lurch as the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) refused to provide them with a ‘provisional certificate’ to licence their products as biodegradable.
    • This was because the rules do not specify exactly what degree of degradation would merit such a certificate.

Highlights of the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2024

  • It defines biodegradable plastics as not only capable of degradation by biological processes in specific environments such as soil, landfill, but also as materials that do not leave any microplastics.
    • However, the caveat about microplastics in the updated rules does not specify -
      • Which chemical tests can be used to establish the absence of microplastics, or
      • To what extent microplastics must be reduced in a sample in order to consider them eliminated.
  • The amendment provides that the manufacture of carry bags and commodities shall be permitted to be made from compostable plastics or biodegradable plastics.
  • The rules require the manufacturers of compostable plastic or biodegradable plastic carry bags or commodities to obtain a certificate from the CPCB before marketing or selling.
  • Every manufacturer of commodities made from plastic shall -
    • Ensure processing of the pre-consumer plastic waste generated in the form of reject or discard material at the stage of manufacturing and
    • Report to the State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee concerned.

Q1) What is the difference between compostable plastics and biodegradable plastics?

Plastic that is compostable is biodegradable, but not every plastic that is biodegradable is compostable. Whereas biodegradable plastic may be engineered to biodegrade in soil or water, compostable plastic refers to biodegradation into soil conditioning material (i.e., compost).

Q2) What is the difference between primary and secondary microplastics?

Primary microplastics are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics, as well as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets. Secondary microplastics are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles.