Making India’s polluters pay


  • When the Centre published the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules in 2016, a key element of it was “extended producer responsibility” or EPR. The idea of EPR was to make the polluter pay. So, all sellers of plastic packaging were required to, within six months, install a system to collect their waste.

India’s annual plastic waste:

  • It’s a small start, and not enough to make a dent on the problem of India’s annual plastic waste of 7-9 million tonnes (CPCB estimates). Only about 45 companies have submitted their EPR plans to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), whereas the total number of such companies runs into several thousands.
  • Over the last one year, the CPCB has begun imposing EPR waste-recovery targets. Plus, it has started listing Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs), to whom manufacturers can outsource their obligations. These efforts have given a fillip to recycling efforts.

The idea of EPR:

  • The idea of EPR is extremely critical to waste management. Today, India’s recycling sector is mostly informal, and consists of waste pickers and kabadiwallahs.
  • With little help from municipal bodies, they are able to recycle almost 80% of a type of plastic called Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET).
  • But the system is still inefficient, and almost half of the estimated 7-9 million tonnes of plastic doesn’t get picked up by the informal sector.


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