22 March 2019 by Will Date

Six month timetable for India plastics restriction

EXCLUSIVE: India’s ban on plastic waste imports will come into effect at the end of August, documents seen by letsrecycle.com have indicated.

The country’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) announced that it had banned the import of plastic scrap, in a bulletin posted on 6 March (see letsrecycle.com story).

Containers unloading in the port of Mumbai

The move was widely reported and seen as a potential blow to exporters of plastic waste – in particular grades such as LDPE film and bottles – coming after China had closed its doors to lower grade material.

A memorandum circulated by the Ministry shortly after its initial announcement, signed by joint director Sonu Singh, has revealed that impacted businesses will be given up to six months to comply.

The memorandum, seen by letsrecycle.com, states: “In view of ongoing industrial activities in such units and to ensure smooth compliance of these norms, a window of six (06) months, i.e. up to 31st August, 2019 may be provided to units operating in SEZ [Special Economic Zones] and EOU [Export Oriented Units] to comply with the prohibition of import of plastic scrap. During this period the units may be allowed the import of plastic scrap.”

Import

Indian authorities toughened laws around the import of solid plastic waste in 2016 when legislation was changed to prohibit the import of solid plastic waste including PP and PET.

However this was relaxed to allow operators in ‘Special Economic Zones’ to continue to import material.

Exporters with close ties to the Indian market described the latest measure as catching them by “complete surprise” – particularly coming close to the country’s Election in May, ahead of which major policy announcements had not been expected.

Surendra Patawari Borad, chairman of the Bureau of International Recycling’s plastics committee and of the Belgian exporter Gemini Corp, said: “Currently, India is importing annually about 250,000 tonnes of plastics scrap. About 25% from the USA, 40% from Europe and [the] balance from the rest of the world.

“Let us put all facts in proper perspective: China was importing about 7 million tonnes of plastics scrap every year. Comparatively speaking the Indian import of over 250,000 tonnes is not significant in volume.”

Demand

Mr Borad also offered the view that despite many countries appearing to step back from importing plastic scrap in recent months, demand for material will continue to drive trade.

He said: “I think many countries have taken steps towards banning plastics import. I do not foresee major such actions.

“The dynamics of international trade is guided by demand, supply, transport costs and exchange rates. I feel that the volume of the trade will never reach to the [same level as the] pre-China ban period but the trade will continue in one way or another.”

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