CAG Audit report on Plastic Waste
31, Dec 2022
Prelims level : Pollution & Waste Management Mains level : GS-III Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental impact assessment.
Why in News?
- As per the recent audit by CAG of MoEF&CC, it was found that the ministry has a mechanism to assess the generation of plastic waste, but none for its collection and safe disposal.
Key findings of the CAG report:
- MoEF&CC has no action plan leading to ineffective implementation of Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016
- Effective coordination between several pollution control boards (Central and State) and the ministry is lacking
- Lack of uniform method of assessment of plastic waste generation within a state
- The issue with the Rules: The Plastic Waste Management Rules framed by MoEF&CC lack comprehensiveness to give thrust to effective implementation and monitoring
- In 2019, the Union government in a bid to free India of single-use plastics by 2022, had laid out a multi-ministerial plan to discourage the use of single-use plastics across the country.
- So, the government announced the ban in August 2021, following its 2019 resolution to address plastic pollution in the country.
What are single use plastics?
- Single-use plastics refer to disposable items like grocery bags, food packaging, bottles and straws that are used only once before they are thrown away, or sometimes recycled.
Why SUP is a cause of concern?
- Harm environment: Single-use plastic also accounts for the majority of plastic discarded – 130 million metric tonnes globally in 2019 — all of which are burned, buried in landfills or discarded directly into the environment.
- GHG emission: On the current trajectory of production, it has been projected that single-use plastic could account for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
What are the items being banned?
- Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have announced a ban on – earbuds; balloon sticks; candy and ice-cream sticks; cutlery items including plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, trays; sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packs; PVC banners measuring under 100 microns; and polystyrene for decoration.
- Polythene bag: The Ministry had already banned polythene bags under 75 microns in September 2021, expanding the limit from the earlier 50 microns. From December 2022, the ban will be extended to polythene bags under 120 micron
- Sachets: According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, there is also a complete ban on sachets using plastic material for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.
Why these items?
- As per the ministry: The choice for the first set of single-use plastic items for the ban was based on “difficulty of collection, and therefore recycling”.
How will the ban be enforced?
- Monitoring by CPCB: The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.
- Stop raw materials supply: Directions have been issued at national, state and local levels — for example, to all petrochemical industries — to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items.
- Directions to industries: SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees will modify or revoke consent to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.
- Fresh licensing required: Local authorities have been directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items will not be sold on their premises, and existing commercial licences will be cancelled if they are found to be selling these items.
- Encouraging compostable plastics: CPCB has issued one-time certificates to 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic and the BIS passed standards for biodegradable plastic.
- Penalty: Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986 – which allows for imprisonment up to 5 years, or a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh, or both. Violators can also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensation by the SPCB.
How are other countries dealing with single-use plastic?
- Consensus on SUP in UN: This year, 124 countries, parties to the United Nations Environment Assembly, including India, signed a resolution to draw up an agreement which will in the future make it legally binding for the signatories to address the full life of plastics from production to disposal, to end plastic pollution.
- 68 countries have plastic bag bans with varying degrees of enforcement
- Bangladesh: Bangladesh became the first country to ban thin plastic bags in 2002.
- China: China issued a ban on plastic bags in 2020 with a phased implementation.
- EU: EU bans certain single-use plastics for which alternatives are available.