7 March 2019 by Will Date

India moves to end plastic waste imports

India’s government has introduced changes to legislation that look to have effectively banned the import of plastic waste into the country.

In a statement issued yesterday (6 March), India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change announced amendments to its Hazardous Waste (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules – aimed at ‘strengthening the environmentally sound management of hazardous waste’ in the country.

Containers unloading in the port of Mumbai (picture: Shutterstock)

This includes a prohibition on the import of plastic scrap, outlined under the following: “Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU).”

The statement added further: “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 move is seen to be a blow to exporters of plastic waste for recycling, with India having become a key market for some grades of LDPE film and rigid bottles, particularly in light of import restrictions on low quality wastes in China.

Plastic

Indian authorities have previously clamped down on the import of plastic waste, including in 2016 when laws were changed to prohibit the import of solid plastic waste including PP and PET (see letsrecycle.com story).

However the laws were relaxed to allow operators in ‘Special Economic Zones’ to continue to import material. This appears to have now been reversed through this month’s rule change.

India’s move comes at a time of increasing scrutiny on plastics export markets, with a group of MPs having recently called for a “target of net zero exports of recyclable plastic packaging by 2030 at the latest” (see letsrecycle.com story).

However, the UK is largely dependent on sending plastic waste overseas for processing due to a lack of sufficient recycling capacity in the UK – coupled with a demand for secondary materials from manufacturing facilities outside of the UK.

Packaging recycling data published by the Environment Agency suggests that as much as 500,000 tonnes of plastic packaging was exported for recycling in 2018, compared to around 280,000 tonnes processed in the UK.

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