India closes loophole on plastic waste imports

India closes loophole on plastic waste imports

March 8, 2019
Marcia González

India has completely banned the import of solid plastic waste into the country, leaving many countries with one less major recycling outlet following China’s ban

India has followed China’s lead by issuing a total ban on the import of waste plastics, including in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as well as by Export Oriented Units (EOU), the country’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) announced this week.

India already consumes around 13 million tonnes of plastic a year and only recycles four million of that, so is hardly in a position to be taking on other countries’ plastic problems. Moreover, according to a study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 10,376 tonnes (40%) out of the 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste a day remains uncollected in the country, so clearly there are – and have been – capacity concerns.

The Indian government initially prohibited the import of plastic waste, PET bottles especially, in 2015 in the hope of incentivizing domestic plastic recycling units, although a 2016 amendment allowed its import on the condition that the recycling was carried out by agencies within the SEZs. According to the Delhi-based environment organization, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Smriti Manch, the influx of PET bottles quadrupled from 12,000 tonnes in FY2016-2017 to 48,000 tonnes in FY2017-2018, making India one of the world’s largest importers of plastic waste. This week’s amendment to the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, now closes that loophole, which means that countries such as Japan, the UK, Italy and China are going to have to come up with alternative plans.

“The amendment has been done keeping into consideration the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and boosting ‘Make in India’ initiative by simplifying the procedures under the Rules, while at the same time upholding the principles of sustainable development and ensuring minimal impact on the environment,” the MoEFCC stated.

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