Government mandates plastic bags of 40 microns thickness

New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) Taking the fight against polluting plastic a step further, the environment ministry Monday notified that plastic carry bags should be of a minimum thickness of 40 microns and will not be given free of cost to consumers.

The new Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011 announced Monday will replace the earlier Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999.

The ministry has set a uniform minimum thickness of not less than 40 microns for plastic bags against the previous 20 microns.

The new rules ban use of plastic material in sachets for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala. Foodstuff will not be allowed to be packed in recycled plastics or compostable plastics.

One of the major provisions under the new set of rules is the explicit recognition of the role of waste pickers. The municipal authority will now have to constructively engage agencies or groups working in waste management, including waste pickers.

‘It is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country. The real challenge is to improve municipal solid waste management systems,’ said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Ramesh said in addition to the privatisation and mechanisation of the municipal solid waste management systems ‘we must be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the lakhs of people involved in the informal sector’.

‘No carry bags shall be made available free of cost to consumers. The municipal authority may determine the minimum price for plastic carry bags. They may also direct the manufacturers to establish plastic waste collection centres, either collectively or individually,’ said the rules.

The new rules stipulate provisions for marking or labelling to indicate the name and registration number of the manufacturer, the thickness of the bag and also to indicate whether they are recycled or compostable.

‘Plastic carry bags shall either be white or only with those pigments and colourants which are in conformity with the bar prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS),’ it said.

The municipal authority shall be responsible for setting up, operating and coordinating the waste management system, the rules say.