The Hindu - International

Ministry of Environmen­t tightens rules on bioplastic­s

- Jacob Koshy

The Environmen­t Ministry has introduced rules that make it harder for makers of disposable plastic ware to label such products as ‘biodegrada­ble’, introducin­g a stipulatio­n that they must not leave any microplast­ics behind. Biodegrada­ble plastic and compostabl­e plastic are projected as the two broad kinds of technologi­cal fixes to India’s burgeoning problem of plastic waste pollution.

Biodegrada­ble plastic involves plastic goods being treated before they are sold. Compostabl­e plastics, on the other hand, do degrade but require industrial or large municipal waste management facilities to do so.

A new set of amendments to India’s Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2024, made public last week, defines biodegrada­ble plas

Microplast­ics are reported as a major source of pollution.

tics as not only capable of “... degradatio­n by biological processes in specific environmen­t such as soil, landfill...” but also as materials that do not leave “any microplast­ics...”.

The caveat about microplast­ics in the updated rules does not specify which chemical tests can be used to establish the absence of microplast­ics, or to what extent microplast­ics must be reduced in a sample in order to consider them eliminated, says Sunil Panwar, CEO, Symphony Environmen­tal India. The company offers technologi­es that, when added to regular singleuse plastics, make them biodegrada­ble.

“... The current standards [in India] only recommend tests that can be done to determine the levels of microplast­ics but don’t prescribe a definitive test... Should a standard for microplast­ics be eventually determined, it should, for fairness sake, include both compostabl­e and biodegrada­ble plastics,” he told The Hindu.

Microplast­ics have been reported as a major source of pollution affecting rivers and oceans.

Several firms were left in the lurch as the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) refused to provide them with a ‘provisiona­l certificate’ to license their products as biodegrada­ble. This is because the CPCB only considers biodegrada­ble a plastic sample that has 90% degraded, and such a process takes at least two years.

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