What are the new guidelines for polythene bags by the government?

The NGT (National Green Tribunal) recently banned the use of all forms of disposable plastic material, in Delhi and most of it is packaging material and disposable plastic cups used by street-side tea vendors. Prior to that in 2016, the union environment ministry announced new guidelines for manufacture and use of plastic carry bags by stipulating the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags to be 50 microns, which is an increase of 10 microns over what it was earlier.

This increase in the thickness of plastic carry bags is expected to push up the cost of production by about 20 %, which will discourage retailers to give away plastic carry bags for free while on the other hand, collection by the waste-pickers is likely to increase proportionally.

Government's Compulsions

The government is against imposing a blanket ban on the production of plastic carry bags because a suitable alternative for plastic carry bags hasn't yet been found. At the same time, the food processing industry is growing quite fast and this growth is expected to pick up the pace in the near future.

When looked at separately from its linkages with the plastic packaging industry, it is a good sign that the food processing industry is growing fast, as it will reduce food wastage in a major way. In this situation, the use of plastic for the packaging industry can't be brought to a sudden standstill as it will create major problems for the food processing industry.

Focus On Managing Plastic

Under the circumstances, greater focus is required in managing plastic waste and accordingly the government has announced certain guidelines under the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2015. One of the principal rules require producers, importers and brand owners who introduce these disposable plastic carry bags, multi-layered plastic sachet, or pouches, or other packaging material, to collect back the plastic waste generated due to the proliferation of their products in the market.

In fact, these rules clearly spell out the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the plastic carry bag and packaging material supply chain in ensuring that the waste is recycled with minimum to no impact on the environment.