Understanding India's Biodegradable Plastic Regulations

Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024 - A comprehensive guide to navigating India's regulations on biodegradable plastics
Understanding India's Biodegradable Plastic Regulations

The Environment Ministry of India has recently introduced updated regulations, the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024, aimed at addressing the issue of misleading labeling of disposable plastic products as 'biodegradable.'

These amendments now require biodegradable plastics not only to decompose naturally through biological processes but also to leave no microplastics behind.

Biodegradable and Compostable Plastics:

  • Biodegradable and compostable plastics offer potential solutions to the plastic waste crisis.
  • Biodegradable plastics are treated to decompose naturally over time, although there are no standardized tests for complete degradation.
  • Compostable plastics degrade but necessitate industrial or large-scale municipal facilities.

Revised Definition of Biodegradable Plastics:

  • The updated rules define biodegradable plastics as materials that degrade in specific environments without leaving microplastics.
  • However, the rules lack clarity on the chemical tests for microplastics absence and the acceptable level of microplastics in a sample.

Challenges for Manufacturers:

  • Manufacturers face challenges in meeting the new standards, especially regarding the absence of microplastics.
  • Microplastics present in water, soil, and composting mediums pose additional hurdles.
  • Fair standards should encompass both compostable and biodegradable plastics.

Microplastics and Pollution:

  • Microplastics, particles insoluble in water ranging from 1 µm to 1,000 µm, contribute significantly to environmental pollution.
  • Increased attention on biodegradable plastics follows the 2022 ban on single-use plastics.

Confusion Over Standards:

  • Despite the ban, ambiguity persists over the definition of biodegradable plastics.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board's stringent criteria for certification creates uncertainty for manufacturers.
  • Lack of clarity on degradation percentages and timelines further complicates the certification process.

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