Why the government allowed the import of plastic waste after banning it in 2019

The government (partially) lifted the plastic waste import ban after 3 years of its imposition in 2019. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change allowed the import of PET bottles as plastic waste for processing as companies suffered financial losses. .

The reason given for the decision is the scarcity of waste generated in India. You have to frown on this decision because plastic is one of the global issues threatening mankind.

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India imports plastic waste from China, Italy, Japan and Malawi for recycling, which has increased over the years. India recycles 4 million tonnes of plastic while consuming 13 million tonnes. Thus, the government imposed a ban on the import of plastic waste, except for agencies residing in special economic zones.

What is polyethylene terephthalate (PET)?

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a strong and rigid synthetic fiber belonging to the family of polymers based on ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid.

Almost all the plastic bottles you see in the world are PET only. Manufacturers preferred PET because it is 100% recyclable and highly sustainable.

It is a strong, non-reactive, economical and unbreakable product that can be recovered and recycled again and again. It can be recycled into containers for personal care products or into carpet and clothing fibers, automotive parts, etc.

The safety of polyethylene terephthalate for pharmaceutical, medical, food, beverage and personal care applications is recognized by health authorities around the world.

Businesses suffer economic losses

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change allowed the import of PET bottles as plastic waste for processing after banning the import in 2019. Then a measure was taken to promote the management locally generated waste.

plastic waste
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Several plastic waste companies suffered economic losses after the ruling because there was too less waste available for them in India. So, they asked the Indian government to lift the ban and allow them to import plastic waste.

The government allowed the import of PET flakes/bottles

Responding to companies’ request, the Ministry of the Environment set up a committee which recommended that companies applying for authorization could import PET flakes/bottles up to 50% of their production capacity.

The government has said there is no general lifting of the import ban on plastic waste. PET bottles can only be used for recycled polyester staple fibers and yarns.

What will be the impact of the decision?

plastic waste
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According to a report published in The Hindu, “There is no shortage of PET waste in India. According to industry data, more than 14 lakh tons of PET plastic are consumed annually in India, and even with a global recycling rate of 80%, approx. 2.8 lakh tons of waste plastic bottles are never collected. While the whole world bans such imports to strengthen local management of plastic waste, India would have been the first country to re-allow the import of plastic waste,”

Thus, environmental activists oppose the decision to lift the partial ban on the import of PET.

Plastic, a global crisis

The use of plastic has a very negative impact on the environment. As we know, plastic is not biodegradable and does not dissolve quickly in soil, water, etc. Plastic is a solid waste that takes a very long time, up to 1000 years, to dissolve in the atmosphere, and about one ton of plastic makes a million carrier bags.

Until 1950, the production or manufacture of plastic was around 1.5 tons, it increased to 322 tons in 2015 and is growing at a rapid rate of 8% every year.

Single-use plastics, i.e. single use such as bottles, bags, etc. are the most dangerous. Most of the plastic is used in the form of polyethylene which takes thousands or even millions of years to decompose.

Bottle of water
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Plastic affects the environment, ecology and especially aquatic life. By 2050, approximately 821 million metric tons of plastic waste will accumulate in rivers, seas and oceans and 850 metric tons of microplastics will be deposited. Through sewers and rivers, this plastic waste ends up in the seas and oceans.

According to reports, 90% of animals and birds consume plastic in one form or another. According to the World Bank, 8 million tons of plastic waste are deposited each year from land to sea. Plastic is found in water in two forms. In this, it is found in the form of small hard pieces and synthetic fibers that is to say threads coming out of clothes.

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Bryce K. Locke