Plastic Waste Management in India- Challenges

Dated: 27.06.2019

Plastic Waste Management in India- Challenges

The rapid rate of urbanization and development has led to increase in consumption of plastic products vis-à-vis plastic waste generation. It is a fact that plastics waste constitutes a significant portion of the total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in India. Plastics are non-biodegradable and remains on earth for thousands of years. The burning of plastics waste under uncontrolled conditions lead to generation of different hazardous air pollutants (HAPs),  depending upon the type of polymers and additives used. However, the end-of-life plastics can be recycled into a second life application but after every thermal treatment/recycling deterioration in quality of recycled plastic products. Thus plastic waste can be recycled only 3-4 times. The visibility of huge quantity of plastic waste has been perceived as a serious problem and made plastics a target in the management of solid waste. As per the IS 14534: 1998 “Guidelines for Recycling of Plastics”, to identify the raw material of plastic products, the symbols defined by Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI, USA) shall be marked on each product. Different types of plastics and their uses are given below

Different Types of Plastics & it’s Uses

S. No. Short Name Scientific Name Uses
1 PET Polyethylene terephthalate Soft       drink       bottles,        furniture,        carpet, paneling etc.
2 HDPE High-density polyethylene Bottles, carry bags, milk pouches, recycling bins, agricultural pipe, base cups, playground equipment etc.
3 PVC Polyvinyl chloride Pipe, Window profile, fencing, flooring, shower curtains, lawn chairs, non-food bottles and children’s toys etc.
4 LDPE Low-density polyethylene Plastic bags, various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing etc.
5 PP Polypropylen e Auto        parts,        industrial          fibers,         food containers, dishware etc.
6 PS Polystyrene Cafeteria trays, plastic utensils,  toys, video cassettes and cases, clamshell containers, insulation board etc.
7 O Other Thermoset Plastics, Multilayer and Laminates, Bakelite, Polycarbonate, Nylon SMC, FRP etc.

Plastics are generally categorized into two types:


  • Thermoplastics: Thermoplastics or Thermo softening plastics are the plastics which soften on heating and can be molded into desired shape such as PET, HDPE, LDPE, PP, PVC, PS, etc.
  • Thermosets: Thermoset or thermo setting plastics on heating, but cannot be remolded or recycled such as Sheet Molding Compounds (SMC), Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP), Bakelite are the examples of the same.

For efficient management of plastic waste, the Government of India has superseded with the earlier Plastic Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011 and notified Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016 on 18th March, 2016. These rules shall apply to every Waste Generator, Local Body, Gram Panchayat, Manufacturer, Importer, Producer and Brand Owner throughout India.

Environmental issues of plastic waste: 

Followings are the major environmental issues related to plastic waste

  1. Littering of plastic waste is major environmental issues, it makes land infertile, choke the drains, on ingestion by cattle cause death and give ugly look of a city or town
  2. Lack of proper system for plastic waste collection and segregation in cities/towns
  3. Accumulation of non-recyclable plastic waste such as multilayered laminated packaging, thermoset plastic like SMC, FRP etc
  4. Open burning of plastic waste, especially thermoset plastic waste is major health and environmental issue, as it emits toxic gases Leaching impact on soil, underground water etc. due to improper dumping of plastic waste (contain metals & phthalates)
  5. Running of unregistered plastic manufacturing and recycling industries in residential areas.

Responsibilities of CPCB as defined in PWM Rules, 2016 are given below




Rule No. (as per PWM Rules, 2016) Description
1 4(h) The  manufacturers  or  seller  of  compostable  plastic  carrybags  shall

obtain a certificate from the Central Pollution Control Board before marketing or selling their products.

2 5(c) Thermoset plastic waste shall be processed and disposed of as per the guidelines issued from time to time by the Central Pollution Control


3 6(2)(d) The  Local  Bodies  shall  ensure  processing  and  disposal  of  non- recyclable fraction of plastic waste in accordance with the guidelines

issued by the Central Pollution Control Board.

4 17(d) The CPCB shall prepare a consolidated Annual Report on the use and management of plastic waste and forward it to the Central Government

along with its recommendations before the 31st August of every year.


Prescribed Authorities for Plastic Waste Management and their responsibilities as per provision ‘12’ of PWM Rules, 2016 are given below: 





1 State Pollution

Control Board

Enforcement of the provisions of PWM Rules, 2016, relating to

registration, manufacture of plastic products and multilayered

  (SPCB)/ Pollution

Control Committee

packaging, processing and disposal of plastic wastes.
2 Secretary-in- Charge, Urban Development


Enforcement of the provisions of PWM Rules, 2016, relating to waste management by waste generator, use of plastic carry bags, plastic  sheets  or  like,  covers  made  of  plastic  sheets  and

multilayered packaging.

3 Gram Panchayat Enforcement of the provisions of PWM Rules, 2016, rules relating to waste management by the waste generator, use of plastic carry bags, plastic sheets or like, covers made of plastic sheets and multilayered packaging in the rural area of the State or

a Union Territory.

4 District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner Shall provide the assistance to SPCBs/PCCs, Secretary-in- Charge, Urban Development Department and Gram Panchayat under  his  jurisdiction,  whenever  required  for  enforcement  of

provisions of PWM Rules, 2016.


Plastic Waste Generation in India:

As per the study conducted by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 60 major cities of India, it has been observed that around 4059 T/day of plastic waste is generated from these cities. The fraction of plastic waste in total Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) varies from 3.10% (Chandigarh) to 12.47% (Surat). Average plastic waste generation is around 6.92% of MSW. The plastic waste generation data for 60 major cities in India With extrapolation of the plastic waste generation data from 60 major cities, it is estimated that around 25,940 T/day of plastic waste is generated in India. As per the results of the study, out of total plastic waste, around 94% waste comprises of thermoplastic content, which is recyclable such as PET, LDPE, HDPE, PVC etc. and remaining 6% belongs to the family of thermoset and other categories of plastics such as sheet molding compound (SMC), fiber reinforced plastic (FRP), multi-layered, thermocol etc., which is non-recyclable.

Present Status of Plastic Waste Management in India: 

As per the Annual Reports on Implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, the following key issues have been emerged-

  1. The manufacturing, stock, sale & use of less than fifty microns (<50µm) plastic carry bags is continued in majority of States/UTs. Besides, carry bags/films are manufactured, stocked sold and used without proper label or marking
  2. Shopkeepers/Street vendors willing to provide plastic carry bags shall registered with Local Body by paying ₹48000/ annum @4000/month
  1. Widespread littering of plastic waste is continued on road-side, railways tracks, open areas, open drains, river banks, sea-shores, beaches, public places like Bus-station/Bus-stops, open market etc
  2. The estimated plastic waste (PW) generation in 25940 tons/day (based on per capita PW generation)
  1. A number of unlicensed/unregistered plastic manufacturing & recycling unit are running in residential or non-conforming areas
  1. Accumulation of PW may lead to chocking of drains, cause land infertile, on ingestion by cattle’s may lead to death etc
  1. No proper system evolved by majority of Municipal Authorities for collection, segregation and disposal of PW
  1. Many States/UTs have not constituted State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) Body for implementation of PW (M&H) Rules, 2011
  1. Open burning of PW is continued &may contaminate ambient air quality resulting into diseases to human beings


Roles and Responsibilities of Different Stakeholders in Efficient Plastic Waste Management:

The concerned Local Bodies and Gram Panchayat’s are responsible for collection, storage, segregation, transportation and disposal of waste in their jurisdiction. For management of plastic waste, different activities and respective responsible stakeholders are summarized in Table below

S No Activity Responsible Agencies
1 Door to door collection and segregation of all category of plastic waste Safai Karamchari (Municipal Staff) or
Authorized Waste Collector/Picker
2 Collection of littered/dumped plastic waste in public
places like market areas, bus stands, railway stations, cinema halls, parks, community centers, road side etc
Safai  Karamchari (Municipal Staff) or
Authorized Waste Collector/Picker
3 Storage of collected  plastic waste  from households and  other  places  in  a  covered  yard  authorized  by
Municipal Authority
Municipal Staff or Authorized Agency
or  NGO
4 Segregation of stored plastic waste and shredding into 2-4 mm size using plastic shredder Municipal Staff
or Authorized Agency or  NGO
5 Storage of shredded plastic waste in bags and utilization in following different technologies as per requirement and infrastructure

I) Use of shredded plastic waste in construction of bituminous road through hot mix plant (IRC Code SP 98:2013)
II) Conversion of plastic waste in liquid fuel (As per CPCB’s website
III) Transporting stored plastic waste in nearest cement kilns for co-processing (As per CPCB’s website on PWM)
IV) Disposal of plastic waste through plasma Pyrolysis technology (As per CPCB’s website on PWM)

Municipal Staff or
Authorized Agency or

Technologies for Disposal of Plastic Waste: 

  1. Utilization of Plastic Waste in Road Construction
  2. Co-processing of Plastic Waste in Cement Kilns
  3. Conversion of Plastic Waste into Fuel-oil: Refused-derived Fuel (RDF)
  4. Disposal of plastic waste through Plasma Pyrolysis Technology (PPT)- most suitable for non- recyclable and low grade plastic waste
  5. Incineration


Constraints in Use of Plastic Waste Disposal Technologies:


Non-availability of required infrastructure including segregated plastic waste is a major issue due to which plastic waste disposal technologies are not used by most of the Municipalities. It is well known that majority of the Municipal Authorities don’t have proper system for collection, segregation and disposal of plastic waste. Therefore, segregated plastic waste is not available to be used in these technologies. Besides, the modalities for disposal of plastic waste have also not been finalized by Municipal Authorities. Some of the technologies like co-processing of plastic waste is limited to the States only where cement kilns having clinker facilities are located. In other States, the transportation of plastic waste to the cement kilns having clinker facilities becomes costly affair.

Do’s and Dont’s Do’s Don’t
1 Use >50um plastic carry bags/sheet/ or like. Don’t use <50um plastic carry bags/sheet or like
2 Use Virgin plastic carry bags for storing/packaging/food stuffs. Don’t use colored & recycled for storing/packaging/food stuffs.
3 Plastic can be recycled to 2-3 time & then disposed or dumped on landfill and cause environmental problems. Dumping of PW leads to infertility of soil, contaminate underground water quality due to leachate, chocking of drains, death of cattle’s due to ingestion, burning of PW in open areas etc.
4 Collect PW is separate bins Don’t mix with bio-degradable waste.
5 Plastic can be co-processed in cement kilns. Burning of plastic waste may contaminate air quality & cause a pulmonary cancer mesothelioma
    asthma liver and other types of cancer
6 Carry a compostable, jute, cloth bag, compostable material bag, while going for purchasing. Don’t ask for plastic carry bag from shopkeeper or vender.
7 Avoid buying items in packaged plastic Buy food in glass jars or any other material rather than plastic
8 Don’t litter plastic waste on oceans and sea beaches. Sea turtles and marine mammals ingest plastic bags thinking they are food.
9 Use and encourage bio based made carry bags/films/packaging etc. Do not use petro-based of plastic products to save fossil fuel and mother earth.


Stakeholders Involved:

  1. The Central Pollution Control Board – CPCB
  2. State Pollution Control Board – SPCB
  3. District Administrations
  4. Gram Panchayats
  5. Local Municipalities
  6. NGO’s
  7. Industry
  8. Retailers/Shopkeepers
  9. Rag Pickers/Authorised Personnel/Municipal Workers
  10. Common Citizens

Environmental & Economic Contributors

Millions of people worldwide make a living collecting, sorting, recycling, and selling materials that someone else has thrown away.

Waste pickers contribute to local economies, to public health and safety, and to environmental sustainability. While recognition for their contributions is growing in some places, they often face low social status, deplorable living and working conditions, and get little support from local governments. Increasingly, they face challenges due to competition for lucrative waste from powerful corporate entities.

Terms and Categories

The term “waste picker” was adopted at the First World Conference of Waste Pickers in Bogota, Colombia in 2008 to facilitate global networking–and to supplant derogatory terms like “scavenger”. Preferred terms vary, however, by place. For example, in South Africa “relaimers” and  “bagerezi” are used. Other languages have their own preferred terms: catadores in Portuguese, recicladores in Spanish.

Waste pickers collect household or commercial/industrial waste. They may collect from private waste bins or dumpsters, along streets and waterways or on dumps and landfills. Some rummage in search of necessities; others collect and sell recyclables to middlemen or businesses. Some work in recycling warehouses or recycling plants owned by their cooperatives or associations. Work situations differ greatly across countries, but there are basic categories of waste pickers.

What waste pickers have in common is that this work is their livelihood and often helps support their families.

Economic Benefits

The Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS), coordinated by WIEGO, involved quantitative/qualitative research on 763 waste pickers in five cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It found waste pickers offer a range of economic benefits.

Waste picking provides crucial income for people and households. For 65 per cent of the IEMS sample, earnings from waste picking were the main source of household income. Only about one quarter had any other income.

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, waste pickers said their cooperatives create opportunities for people, sometimes “taking them off the streets.”

Waste pickers provide reusable materials to other enterprises. More than three quarters of waste pickers in the IEMS sample sell to formal businesses. Between one quarter and one half supply materials to informal businesses, private individuals and the general public.

In Pune, India waste pickers collect organic matter for composting and biogas.

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Nakuru, Kenya, material is sold to artists and groups to re-imagine.

Others profit from waste pickers’ work. Many waste pickers sell to buyers, who then sell the material for a profit. Waste pickers also pay private carriers and transport drivers.

Source: CPCB, MoEF, Govt of India


M/s S.J. EXIM Services- Q-Freight Team
CP: Mr. Ravi Shekhar Jha
Web: /


Disclaimer: Please refer to official sources before effecting a decision