No more plastic packaging for gutkhas

MoEF notifies the plastic waste (management and handling) rules 2011


Neha Sethi | February 8, 2011

The small plastic sachets of gutkha, tobacco and pan masala scattered all over roads, parks and other places may soon become history if the environment ministry has its way. The ministry of environment and forests on Monday, while notifying the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011, banned the use of plastic materials in sachets for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.

In a statement, environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh 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 privatization 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 rules state that no carry bags should be made available free of cost to consumers. The municipal authority may determine the minimum price for plastic carry bags. ‘The municipal authority may also direct the manufacturers to establish plastic waste collection centres, either collectively or individually, in line with the principle of ‘Extended Producers Responsibility’ the rules state.

The new rules have stipulated provisions for marking or labeling to indicate name, registration number of the manufacturer, thickness and also to indicate whether they are recycled or compostable.

Under the new rules, food stuff will also not be allowed to be packed in recycled or compostable plastic. ‘Plastic carry bags shall either be white or only with those pigments and colourants which are in conformity with the bar prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (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 statement says.

Recycled carry bags will also have to conform to specific BIS standards. Plastic carry bags shall not be less than 40 microns in thickness. Though state governments had earlier stipulated varying minimum thickness but it is now expected that 40 microns norms will become the uniform standard to be followed across the country, the statement says.

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.

While detailing the role of the municipal authority, the rules state that the municipal authority shall be responsible for setting up, operationalization and coordination of the waste management system to ensure safe collection, storage, segregation, transportation, processing and disposal of plastic waste. It will also have to ensure that open burning of plastic waste is not permitted and plastic waste is channelized to the recyclers.



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