The Environment Ministry on Monday issued a notification banning the use of plastics for packaging gutka and other tobacco products after it was pulled up by the Supreme Court for not implementing the law regulating the use of the environmentally harmful polymers.
The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 also bans the packaging of foodstuffs in recycled plastics or compostable plastics.
On February 2, the Supreme Court had refused to grant more time to the Centre for implementing the law to regulate the use of plastic for packaging tobacco products and asked it to notify that within two days.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, however, on Monday said it is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country.
“The real challenge is to improve municipal solid waste management systems. In addition to the privatisation and mechanisation of the municipal solid waste management systems, we must be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the lakhs of people involved in the informal sector,” the Minister said.
The new notification replaces the earlier Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 (amended in 2003).
“These Rules have been brought out following detailed discussions and consultations with a wide spectrum of stakeholders including civil society, industry bodies, relevant central government Ministries and state governments,” the Ministry said.
Under the new Rules, recycled carry bags shall conform to specific Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
“Plastic carry bags shall either be white or only with those pigments and colourants which are in conformity with the bar prescribed by the BIS. This shall apply expressly for pigments and colourants to be used in plastic products which come in contact with foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and drinking water.
The new rules say that plastic carry bags shall not be less than 40 microns in thickness. Under the earlier rules, the minimum thickness was 20 microns.
Several state governments have stipulated varying minimum thickness. It is now expected that 40 microns norms will become the uniform standard to be followed across the country, the Ministry said.
According to the new rules, the minimum size (of 8x12 inches) for the plastic carry bags prescribed under the earlier Rules has been dispensed with.
“Carry bags can be made from compostable plastics provided they conform to BIS standards,” it said.
One of the major provisions under the new rules is the explicit recognition of the role of waste pickers.
“The new rules require the municipal authority to constructively engage agencies or groups working in waste management including these waste pickers. This is the very first time that such a special dispensation has been made,” the Ministry said.