Ban on use of plastics for packaging tobacco products

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New Delhi, Feb 7 (PTI) Environment Ministry todayissued a notification banning the use of plastics forpackaging gutka and other tobacco products after it was pulledup by the Supreme Court for not implementing the lawregulating the use of the environmentally harmful polymers.

The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules,2011 also bans the packaging of foodstuffs in recycledplastics or compostable plastics.

On February 2, the Supreme Court had refused togrant more time to the Centre for implementing the law toregulate the use of plastic for packaging tobacco products andasked it to notify that within two days.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, however, todaysaid it is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket banon the use of plastic all over the country.

"The real challenge is to improve municipal solidwaste management systems. In addition to the privatisation andmechanisation of the municipal solid waste management systems,we must be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the lakhs ofpeople involved in the informal sector," the Minister said.

The new notification replaces the earlier RecycledPlastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 (amended in 2003).

"These Rules have been brought out following detaileddiscussions and consultations with a wide spectrum ofstakeholders including civil society, industry bodies,relevant central government Ministries and state governments,"the Ministry said.

Under the new Rules, recycled carry bags shallconform to specific Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

"Plastic carry bags shall either be white or only withthose pigments and colourants which are in conformity with thebar prescribed by the BIS. This shall apply expressly forpigments and colourants to be used in plastic products whichcome in contact with foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and drinkingwater.

The new rules say that plastic carry bags shall not beless than 40 microns in thickness. Under the earlier rules,the minimum thickness was 20 microns.

Several state governments have stipulated varyingminimum thickness. It is now expected that 40 microns normswill become the uniform standard to be followed across thecountry, the Ministry said.

According to the new rules, the minimum size (of 8x12inches) for the plastic carry bags prescribed under theearlier Rules has been dispensed with.

"Carry bags can be made from compostable plasticsprovided they conform to BIS standards," it said.

One of the major provisions under the new rules is theexplicit recognition of the role of waste pickers.

"The new rules require the municipal authority toconstructively engage agencies or groups working in wastemanagement including these waste pickers. This is the veryfirst time that such a special dispensation has been made,"the Ministry said. .

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