Centre in tricky waters while regulating single use plastic : CK Mishra

Maitri Porecha/Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on October 22, 2019

CK Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change   -  The Hindu

Union Environment Secretary CK Mishra speaks to BusinessLine on single use plastics, Extended Producer Responsibility and more

The centre finds itself in tricky waters while regulating the menace of single use plastic (SUP), said Union Environment Secretary CK Mishra.

“We have sent out guidelines to states defining SUP. The States, though have formulated their own definitions of what SUP entails. Many States have done much more that what centre recommends in this space,” CK Mishra said.

Speaking to BusinessLine “Our focus is on plastic cutlery like spoons, forks, stirrers etc which can easily be replaceable. But, States have drafted their own norms. It is tough for the Ministry to bring parity amongst States when it comes to lesser usage of SUP.”, CK Mishra said.

With regards to the challenges being faced by e-commerce companies like Amazon and Flipkart -- who found themselves in a fix while trying to ship products in plastic bubble wrap to States where SUP was banned, for instance, Maharashtra -- Mishra said that these companies had approached him for recourse, but the centre has maintained a tough stand.

Also read: Plastic ban: Lack of clarity leaves E-commerce companies in a fix

“If they can find a way of collecting their plastic back, I have no issues. But, they can’t do that because they are e-commerce websites. They want the responsibility to be with end-users, but that will not happen. Therefore, they must switch to bio-degradable packaging -- like switching over to paper,” Mishra said adding “There are, however, some items where you have to cover it with plastic, but then there has to a mechanism to dispose it off.”

Disposing off is a challenge in itself

Mishra said that plastic bags especially those below 50 microns do not find favour with ragpickers. Recounting his interactions with ragpickers, he said he learnt that they were the end sufferers, which is why the Ministry was discouraging SUP bags.

“I talked to a ragpicker who gets 40 paise for one bottle, and would not collect plastic bags because it would fetch only half the amount, between 20 to 25 paise for pulling out 10 such plastic bags. They have to bend multiple times to segregate and collect the waste. The bags don’t find any takers, which is why we are discouraging its use,” he said.

On the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) norms, which resulted in cell phone companies like Apple and others like Samsung, Vivo, HP and Motorola finding their imports stuck at customs because of alleged non-compliance, Mishra said Apple had corrected itself by having designated collection centres now, and the issue was being resolved.

EPR entails having designated collection centres for discarded e-waste and raising awareness about responsible disposal. “That under the EPR fines for SUP could be imposed too at the state level.” Each State imposes its own penalty mechanism and there is no data about enforcement or violations available with the centre as of now,” Mishra added.

Published on October 22, 2019

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