On 30th October 2023, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the Plastic Waste Management (Second Amendment) Rules, 2023 (“PWM Amendment Rules”) to further amend the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 (“PWM Rules“) which eases several compliance obligations for relevant stakeholders. The PWM Amendment Rules amends inter alia the marking and labelling requirements, introduces the provision for submitting the application for registration through the centralised online portal developed by the Central Pollution Control Board and allows the purchase of EPR certificates for prescribed categories.
Salient features of the PWM Amendment Rules
- Key definitions –
The PWM Amendment Rules amend the definitions of the terms “carry bags” and “producer” in the following manner –
- The definition of the term “carry bag” has been expanded to include bags made from “biodegradable plastic”, in addition to bags made from plastic material and compostable plastic material.
- The earlier definition of “producer” in the PWM Rules included a ‘manufacturer’ as well as an ‘importer’ of ‘carry bags’ or ‘multilayered packaging’ or ‘plastic sheets’. This definition also previously included within its ambit industries/individuals using plastic sheets/covers made of plastic sheets or multi-layered packaging for packaging or wrapping the commodity. However, the PWM Amendment Rules significantly limits the scope of the definition of a producer to “persons engaged in the manufacturing of plastic packaging”.
- Exemption from responsibility of Producers, Importers and Brand Owners (“PIBOs”) –
The PWM Amendment Rules exempt the following entities, from the application of provisions of extended producer responsibility [“EPR” under Rule 9(1) which requires PIBOs to create mechanisms for waste collection systems]–
- export-oriented units or units in special economic zones notified under the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005 (“SEZ”);
- other units manufacturing plastic packaging or on plastic packaging used for packaging products for export against an order for export.
However, this exemption will not apply to pre-consumer plastic packaging waste generated by the units.
- Registration of producer, recyclers and manufacturer –
The PWM Amendment Rules require only one-time registration of PIBOs through the centralized online portal of the CPCB and omits the requirement of renewal of such registration.
- Inclusion of ‘plastic packaging’ for compliance with ‘conditions’ under Rule 4 (1) –
The various ‘conditions’ under Rule 4 (1) of the PWM Rules pertaining to thickness of various categories of plastic, recycling standards, etc. which was previously applicable to “multi-layered packaging” (amongst other types of plastic), has been substituted to “plastic packaging” generally. Accordingly, all the relevant and applicable conditions under Rule 4 (1) of the PWM Rules will also apply to PIBOs dealing with ‘plastic packaging’. The definition of plastic packaging under the PWM Rules means “packaging material made by using plastics for protecting, preserving, storing, and transporting of products in a variety of ways.”
- Labelling and Marking Requirements –
The PWM Amendment Rules further has introduced a new sub-rule (1) amending the marking and labelling requirements under Rule 11 of the PWM Rules. As per this amendment, each plastic packaging should contain the following information, printed in English:
- the name and registration certificate number for P/I/BO generated through centralized online portal for Plastic Packaging, in case of rigid plastic packaging, effective from 1st July 2024, multilayer flexible plastic packaging having more than one layer with different types of plastics, including plastic sachet or pouches, and multi-layered plastic packaging.
- the name and registration certificate number for P/I/BO generated through centralized online portal for Plastic Packaging and thickness, in case of flexible plastic packaging of single layer including plastic sachet or pouches (if single layer), plastic sheets or like and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags.
- the name and registration certificate number for P/I/BO generated through centralized online portal for Plastic Packaging with effect from 1 January, 2025, and certificate issued under Rule 4 (1) (h) of the PWM Rules in case of plastic sheet or like used for packaging and plastic packaging as well as carry bags commodities made of compostable plastic.
- name and certificate number issued under Rule 4 (1) (h) of the PWM Rules in case of plastic sheets or like used for packaging and plastic packaging as well as carry bags and commodities made of biodegradable plastic.
- The above marking and labelling requirements do not apply to plastic packaging covered under rule 26 of the Legal Metrology Packaged Commodities Rules, 2011 and plastic packaging cases where it is technically not feasible to print the requisite information, as per specifications given in the Guidelines for use of Standard Mark and labelling requirements under BIS Compulsory Registration Scheme for Electronic and IT Products.
- Producer to maintain records for ‘plastic packaging’-
Rule 9(6) of the PWM Rules has substituted the term “multi-layered packaging” with “plastic packaging” thereby requiring every producer to maintain a record of details of the person engaged in supply of plastic packaging.
- Prescribed authorities –
As per the PWM Amendment Rules, Additional Chief Secretary or Principal Secretary or the Secretary in charge of the Department of the State Government or a Union Territory Administration responsible for municipal administration will be responsible for enforcement of the rules in urban areas and Additional Chief Secretary or Principal Secretary or the Secretary in charge of the Department of the State Government or a Union territory Administration responsible for “Panchayati Raj Institutions” will be responsible for enforcement of the rules in rural areas, in respect of inter alia waste management by the waste generator, (restriction or prohibition on) use of plastic carry bags, plastic sheets etc.
- Purchase of extended producer responsibility certificate from different categories –
The PWM Amendment Rules have also amended Schedule II and introduced a clause which allows purchase of EPR certificates for those categories where surplus exists over the EPR obligation of that category for fulfilment of extended producer responsibility obligation of such category where deficit exists. However, this provision will cease to apply at the end of the year 2025-2026.
The latest amendments to the PWM Rules foster ease of doing business by leveraging technology i.e. the centralized online portal of CPCB, requiring one-time registration of the PIBOs and omitting the need to renew the registration. Although, the PWM Amendment Rules have excluded importers from the definition of the term “producer” by limiting it to ‘manufacturers of plastic packaging’, the PWM Rules have not contributed to reducing the compliance burden of importers who were anyway required to inter alia fulfil the EPR obligations, register with the concerned State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee or the CPCB as the case may be. However, the relaxation does apply in certain compliances which are required to be made by a producer, such as maintaining a record of details of the person engaged in supply of plastic used as raw material to manufacture carry bags or plastic sheet or like or cover made of plastic sheet or plastic packaging. Moreover, the labelling requirements pertaining to thickness of plastic packaging which was a mandatory declaration under the PWM Rules has also been liberalised.
The exclusion of export-oriented units and special economic zones from the application of EPR requirements makes compliance easy thereby providing incentives in this area.
These amendments will play a significant role in plastic waste management and enable entities to comply with the rules. However, whether such amendments will incentivize environmental compliance vis-à-vis plastic waste management, or not, will become clear in the fullness of time.