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Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notifies the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notifies the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024

On 14th March 2024, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (“MoEFCC”) notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024 (PWM Amendment Rules) which amend the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 (“PWM Rules“). The PWM Amendment Rules amend and introduce provisions for regulation of, inter alia, compostable and biodegradable plastics, and the manufacture and sale of plastic raw material.

Salient features of the PWM Amendment Rules:

  • Key Definitions: 
    • Biodegradable Plastics: The PWM Amendment Rules specify the specific environments such as soil, landfill, sewage sludge, fresh water, marine in which the biodegradable plastics are capable of degradation by biological processes.
    • Importer: As per the earlier definition, an Importer” meant a person who imported ‘plastic packaging’ or ‘products with plastic packaging’ or ‘carry bags’ or ‘multilayered packaging’ or ‘plastic sheets’ or ‘like’. However, the PWM Amendment Rules have inserted the words “for commercial use”, have deleted the term ‘multi-layered packaging’ and also expanded the definition of Importer to include a person who imports, any plastic raw material, including in the form of resin/pellets/intermediate material used for manufacturing plastic packaging such as films or preforms, for commercial use.
    • Manufacturer: The term “manufacturer” now includes, within its ambit, a person engaged in production of compostable plastics and biodegradable plastics.
    • Producer: The term “producer” has been expanded to include (i) a person engaged in manufacture of intermediate material to be used for manufacturing plastic packaging, and (ii) the person engaged in contract manufacturing of products using plastic packaging or through other similar arrangements for brand owners.
    • Seller: The PWM Amendment Rules have introduced a new definition of the term “seller” who is defined as a person who sells plastic raw material such as resins or pellets or intermediate material used for producing plastic packaging.
  • Amendments to ‘Conditions’ under the PWM Rules, 2016: The PWM Amendment Rules, inter alia, require the manufacturer of commodities made from compostable/biodegradable plastics to report the quantity of such commodities introduced in the market and pre-consumer waste generated to the Central Pollution Control Board (“CPCB”). Additionally, as per the newly inserted sub-clause (ha) to Rule 4(1), the manufacture of carry bags and commodities is permitted to be made from compostable/biodegradable plastics subject to (i) mandatory marking and labelling laid down under these rules and the regulations of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for food contact applications and (ii) obtaining a certificate from the CPCB before marketing or selling the same.
  • Additional responsibilities of Producers, Importers, and Brand Owners (“PIBOs”) The PWM Amendment Rules have amended Rule 9 of the PWM Rules, which govern the responsibility of the PIBOs. As per the PWM Amendment Rules, the PIBOs are responsible for the collection of ‘any plastic packaging’ that they have introduced in the market and would be deemed to have complied with the collection related requirement if they fulfil their Extended Producer Responsibility (“EPR”). Earlier the PWM Rules placed the primary responsibility for collection of used multilayered plastic sachet or pouches or packaging on PIBOs who introduced the products in the market and required them to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to their products. However, the PWM Amendment Rules have done away with these requirements. In addition to the PIBOs, manufacturers and manufacturers of commodities made from compostable/biodegradable plastics are also required to fulfil EPR as per Schedule II, as per the newly inserted Rule 9(2A).
  • Labelling and Marking Requirements : The PWM Amendment Rules have further amended Rule 11 of the PWM Rules which govern the marking and labelling requirements.
    • Earlier, the PWM Rules required every recycled “carry bag” to bear a label or mark “recycled”. This provision has now been amended and is applicable to every recycled “plastic packaging or commodity” which now needs to bear the label recycled having [—–specify percentage—-] of recycled plastic” along with the mark as provided in the PWM Rules and should also conform to Indian Standard: IS 14534: 2023 titled “Plastics — Recovery and Recycling of Plastics Waste — Guidelines.”
    • Similarly, for biodegradable plastics the PWM Rules require the label to state “Biodegradable in [— specify number of days —] only in the [—specify recipient environment such as soil, landfill, water etc.—]”. For compostable plastics the label must bear “compostable only under industrial composting”, as opposed to the earlier requirement of compostable plastics to bear a label stating only “compostable” .
  • Registration of importer of raw material: In addition to a ‘manufacturer’ of plastic raw material, the PWM Amendment Rules now require an importer of plastic raw materials to make an application to the State Pollution Control Board (“SPCB”) or Pollution Control Committee (“PCC”) for grant of registration. In the event registration is not granted within a period of 30 days after the receipt of an application complete in all respect, the applicant will be deemed to be registered on the expiry of such 30 day period. Further, the PWM Amendment Rules also stipulate certain conditions for the sale of plastic raw material that must be complied with by a manufacturer/importer of plastic raw material including inter alia submitting quarterly report to the concerned CPCB and SPCB/PCC.
  • Submission of Annual report : The PWM Amendment Rules require every manufacturer and importer of plastic raw material to prepare and submit online a quarterly report to the SPCB or PCC concerned by the last day of month following the quarter and an annual report by 30th June of every year, through a newly introduced Form VII of the PWM Rules.
  • Engagement with local bodies and gram panchayat – The PWM Amendment Rules introduce new rules that allow every PIBO, manufacturer, and manufacturer of commodities made from compostable/biodegradable plastics to engage with urban local bodies and Panchayat at District and Village levels, on a voluntary basis, as per mutually agreed terms.
  • Amendments in Schedule II – Some of the amendments are noted below:
    • Obligated entities – The list of obligated entities has been expanded by the PWM Amendment Rules to consider all those who import intermediate material used for manufacturing plastic packaging such as films and preforms and plastic packaging of imported products as an importer and recognise “manufacturers and importers of plastic raw materials” and “manufacturers of items made from compostable plastics or biodegradable plastics” as obligated entities.
    • Coverage of EPR – The PWM Amendment Rules have introduced a new category, namely “Category V” pertaining to plastic sheet or like used for packaging as well as carry bags and commodities made of biodegradable plastics.
    • Registration Manufacturers and importers of plastic raw material” and “Manufacturers of items made from compostable plastics or biodegradable plastics” are also required to register on the centralised portal developed by the CPCB. Additionally, micro and small enterprises, as defined under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006, who qualify as ‘Producers’ are also required to register on CPCB’s centralised portal.
    • Targets for EPR and obligations of PIBOs – EPR targets for manufacturer or importer of plastic raw material have also been introduced requiring such manufacturer/importer to inter alia ensure a minimum level of recycling (excluding end of life disposal) of plastic waste collected under the EPR target as per the table introduced in the PWM Amendment Rules.
    • Sale and purchase of EPR certificates  The PWM Amendment Rules, inter alia, empower CPCB to issue guidelines for authorisation of agencies for establishment of an electronic platform for the trade of EPR certificates between obligated entities. The operation of the electronic platform would be as per the guidelines issued by CPCB after the approval of Central Government, and CPCB will fix the highest and lowest price for such certificates in such a manner that will be equal to 100% and 30%, respectively, of the Environmental Compensation leviable on the obligated entities for non-fulfilment of EPR obligations under Rule 18 of the PWM Rules.   
    • Fulfilment of EPR Obligations  The PWM Amendment Rules stipulate a requirement for inter alia PIBOs, to provide the details of certificates for plastic waste recycled and sent for end-of-life disposal, by 30th June of the next financial year while filing annual returns on the online portal. The details of the certificate provided by inter alia the PIBOs, will be verified, and in case of difference, the lower figure will be considered towards the fulfilment of EPR obligations.
  • Amendments to the Forms: The PWM Amendment Rules have further amended various forms and have introduced Form VII under Rule 17(2) which pertains to the format for quarterly report of plastic raw material.
Our Take

The MoEFCC has taken a positive step by introducing provisions for the regulation of manufacture and sale of plastic raw materials by, inter alia, requiring the manufacturers and importers of such plastic raw materials to apply for registration under these rules. Further, the new labelling and marking requirements that have been introduced for biodegradable plastics requiring the label to bear the number of days in which the plastic would be biodegradable and the specific environment for the same, as well as for compostable plastics, would be beneficial in making the consumers aware of the quality of the biodegradable and compositable plastics and promoting the use of the same. 

However, from a compliance perspective, the PWM Amendment Rules place onerous compliance requirements of reporting various activities to the CPCB/SPCB/PCC, as the case may be, including the processing of pre-consumer plastic waste generated at the stage of manufacturing.

While the intention behind introducing the PWM Amendment Rules is vested in environmental interest, the effectiveness of these amendments and their impact on ease of doing business would become clear in the fulness of time.

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