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India strengthens vigilance at ports to restrict single-use plastic imports - Government orders seizure of consignments

Petrochemical industry | 23 Jun 2022 13:40 IST | Polymerupdate.com

Stepping ahead with effective implementation of the ban on single-use plastic (SUP) items, the government of India has started tightening loopholes gradually. With its implementation date drawing closer, concerned authorities and ministries have started drafting legislation and guidelines for the respective departments for its strict enforcement.

A few days after asking petrochemical companies not to supply polymers to the manufacturers of SUP items, the Ministry of Finance has ordered port authorities to strengthen vigilance on the import consignments. The Ministry has asked port officials not to clear consignments that contain banned SUP items, seize all such containers and report to it immediately. This indicates that the government, in all ways, wants to enforce the ban on the production, storage, sale, and consumption of SUP items as per the scheduled date of July 1, 2022.


Chain of events to ban single-use plastic (SUP) items

Important dates

Type of actions

June 22, 2022

Ministry of Finance orders port authorities to strengthen vigilance and seize consignments of banned SUP imports

June 10, 2022

Central Pollution Control Board asks petrochemical companies to furnish details of polymer sales along with the name and addresses of buyers on a quarterly basis

February 16, 2022

MoEF&CC notifies Extended Producers Responsibility and directs producers and consumers to use a certain percentage of recycled materials from a particular date and achieve 100 percent by FY 2026

February 1, 2022

Central Pollution Control Board issues direction to customs not to clear consignments after July 1, 2022

January 14, 2022

Central Pollution Control Board starts issuing licenses to compostable polymer producers for a smooth transition to biodegradable materials

August 12, 2021

MoEF&CC notifies ban on SUP items from July 1, 2022, enhances thickness on plastic carry bags to 75 microns from September 1, 2021, and 120 microns from December 31, 2022

August 15, 2019

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterates the country to make SUP free by 2022

June 5, 2018

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi vows to phase out single-use plastic by 2022

Source: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ministry of Finance

In a letter dated June 22, 2022, addressed to port authorities including the Chief of Customs, the Union Ministry of Finance, said, “The Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022 prescribes mandatory registration of importers of plastic packaging products including packaging materials, carry bags or multi-layered packaging sheets, on a centralized portal developed by CPCB which also outlines Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and obligations of importers. It is requested that necessary action may be taken to sensitize officers under your jurisdiction regarding the above-mentioned (SUP) prohibitions and restrictions with respect to the import of items made of plastic.”

Kevin Boban, an Officer on Special Duty (Customs), Union Ministry of Finance, said, “The ban on SUP items, however, will not apply to commodities made of compostable plastic.”

Earlier on June 10, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the MoEF&CC had issued a separate letter to each petrochemical company requesting them not supply polymers to the manufacturers of SUP items. Also, the letter advised petrochemical companies to share details of polymer sale along with the name and address of buyers and goods and services tax (GST) paid, in a prescribed format on a quarterly basis.

The letter follows a notification issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) dated August 12, 2021, banning the production, storage, sale, and consumption of SUP items which include earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, and polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration. Further, plates, cups glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straws, strays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers, etc made of plastics are also banned.

To implement this order, the government amended the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016, and banned the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of identified SUP items including polystyrene expanded polystyrene July 1, 2022. The notification also prescribes the minimum thickness of carrying bags. The amended PWM Rules mandate that carries bags made of virgin or recycled plastic shall not be less than 75 microns in thickness with effect from September 30, 202, and 120 microns from December 31, 2022.

Speaking to Polymerupdate, Arjun Mehta, Director of Balson Industries, said, “The SUP manufacturers have already started using compostable materials to manufacture biodegradable plastics. We have already switched to the new production method after upgrading our plant and machinery at a nominal cost. But, consumers’ absorption is very low due to the high cost of biodegradable plastic materials. We are confident, that consumers would understand the shift and start buying environment-friendly products that are needed to protect the global environment.”

According to Mehta, compostable raw materials are 40-50 percent costlier than petrochemical-based polymers. Hence, the cost of final biodegradable plastic is proportionately higher, he added.

Interestingly, the plastic manufacturers have urged the government to extend the deadline for the implementation of the ban on SUP items and enforce the legislation in a phased manner.

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