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BIS quality norms on raw materials to hit circular economy hard in India

On Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 11:50 IST

The implementation of the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) norms on raw materials is likely to hit India’s recycling business and eventually destabilise efforts to shift from a linear to a circular economy. It may also force shut down more than 5000 processing units across the country, experts said.

Thousands of recycling units in India currently import raw materials and process them to produce finished products for their applications in housing and construction sectors, apart from other cost-sensitive industries. Such blends are officially approved by the government authorities. Finished products made out of blended raw materials or locally generated scrap, are similar to that of imported goods of a similar type. This means, there is limited compromise on the quality of finished products even if they are manufactured out of blended raw materials.

The Department of Commerce under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has recommended the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals to a wider consultation of stakeholders before implementing the mandatory quality norms, scheduled on October 15, 2021. Industry stakeholders, however, have sought a deferment in the proposed implementation of the BIS quality norms on raw materials for a year, if not withdrawn fully. A final decision, however, is yet to come from the BIS.

“The government should bring in BIS quality norms on finished products first. Once the industry stabilizes with the quality norms on finished products then the BIS should think of its extension to the raw materials, only after wider consultations with industry stakeholders,” said Sanjay Mehta, President, Material Recycling Association of India (MRAI), to Polymerupdate.

MRAI early this week organized a two-day event Recycling Business Summit 2021 in Goa, perhaps the first physically attended seminar on the subject in India since the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic reported in the country in February 2020.

It is worth mentioning here that the BIS had on April 12, 2021 issued a notification in which players in the value chain including manufacturers, suppliers and processors were granted six months to adhere to BIS quality norms on polymer.

Mehta urged recyclers to come together and voice their concerns before respective designated authorities until they are heard.

“The BIS regulation on the quality of raw materials (i.e. polymers) is just the result of arm twisting tactics applied by primary producers as they (primary producers) want the government to impose full restrictions on scrap import. With this, demand of virgin materials will rise which will eventually support their sales and profit. With an aim to prevent any such intent, MRAI is holding series of discussions with the concerned authorities to paint a clearer picture,” said Mehta.

Speaking on the occasion of the inaugural session of the Asia’s biggest Recycling Business Summit 2021 in Goa, Sudhir Kumar, Adviser, NITI Aayog, assured that BIS standards will not be unfair to the industry players and urged recyclers not to shy away from developing them.

Dhawal Shah, Director, Metco India, told Polymerupdate, “The environmental concerns are equally applicable for primary producers who import of coal for generating electricity. But recycling industry saves natural resources and energy to make end products cost competitive.”

Meanwhile, recycling is not an option but a necessity as the used materials need to be collected, supplied and processed to support circular economy, preserve natural resources for future generations and produce end products at competitive prices.

Mohan Agarwal, managing director, Century Metal Recycling Ltd, told Polymerupdate, “The government should not stop inflow of raw materials by curbing import of scrap. Curbing scrap imports will lead to challenges ahead of secondary manufacturers who are turning the wheels of circular economy in line with the Paris Pact.”


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