India bans import of plastic waste

Imports and Exports | 13 March 2019

India will no longer accept plastic waste imports from the rest of the world.


India has joined China in banning imports of waste plastic in a bid to reduce the gap between waste generation and the nation's recycling capacities.

Imports of plastic waste had already been widely banned under a law implemented in 2016 that prohibits the import of solid plastic waste including PP and PET.

However, loopholes existed that meant regional provisions in special economic zones (SEZs) in some parts of the country allowed local governments to accept plastic waste.

Another scheme called export oriented units (EOUs) also allowed businesses to procure plastic waste from abroad, including the UK.

However, India has now completely prohibited the import of solid plastic waste following an amendment to the Hazardous Waste Rules.

An environment ministry official said the move is in keeping with maintaining the ease of doing businesses, while at the same time "upholding the principles of sustainable development and ensuring minimal impact on the environment", the Economic Times reported.

India generates 26,000 tons of its own waste plastic every day and the government had been concerned that it could no longer support the import of more waste as well as staying on top of its own.

Indeed, according to National Geographic, the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers both now carry huge loads of plastic to their deltas in the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges alone transports an estimated 110,000 tons of plastic every year to its mouth.

There has also been a commitment from India to completely phase out single-use plastics by 2022. It currently has an annual average per capita consumption of plastic of 11kg, compared to the global average of 28kg.

Prior to the Chinese ban on importing waste plastic, the UK, US Germany, Japan and Mexico had been among the biggest exporters of scrap to the Asian nation.

After the ban, they began transferring some of this to countries including India, Vietnam and Malaysia. However, with developing nations now clamping down on this practice, it remains to be seen how plastic waste will now be dealt with and where else will continue to accept it.