Recycled plastics in packaging of food and drinks

The dilemma of recycling plastics in India

Recycled plastics in packaging of food and drinks. photo

LawWiser, India’s video-only knowledge-sharing platform for the legal community, today released a consultation paper on The Dilemma of Recycling Plastics in India”. The objective of this consultation paper is to address and highlight the seriousness of the dual issue of the safe and sustainable disposal methods of waste plastics and the adverse impacts, if any on the health and safety of humans from the use of recycled plastics.

The recommendations from the Consultation Paper are shared with the concerned Ministries and FSSAI for re-consideration of the plastic waste management (second amendment) Rules, 2021, (second amendment) introduced on 17 September 2021. 

Experts from various fields participated in the Virtual Open Forum – Atin Biswas, programme director, Municipal Solid Waste, Centre for Science and Environment, Siddharth Ghanshyam Singh, deputy programme director, Centre for Science and Environment, Sudipto Sircar, advocate, Supreme Court, Delhi High Court, Ashish Agarwal, secretary, Recycle India Foundation, Dr Vijay G Habbu, polymer scientist and adjunct professor, Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai.

There have been a series of legislations to address waste management in India. The Plastic Waste (management and handling) Rules, 2011, was introduced to set up a regulatory framework for manufacture, usage, and recycling of plastic bags to ensure efficient management of plastic waste. In March 2016, The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate change (MoEFCC) to tackle the menace of plastics waste further notified, the plastics waste management (PWM) Rules, 2016. The rules make source segregation of various types of waste mandatory and introduce extended producer responsibility (EPR) as an environment policy instrument, and assign physical, financial, and environmental responsibilities to producers, brand owners, and importers of plastics.

Amendment in Plastic Waste Management Rules

The virtual open forum conducted by LawWiser focused on the impact and concerns raised by the introduction of the second amendment to the plastics waste management rules, 2016 . The PWM (second amendment) Rules, 2021 states that carry bags or products made of recycled plastic” can be used for storing, carrying, dispensing or packaging ready to eat or drink food stuff”. This is subject to appropriate standards and regulation under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (34 of 2006), by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.  

The experts in the Open Forum deliberated that there is a need to first address the set of challenges and issues before it is implemented. In this paper, we understand and explore different aspects, of the new notification which includes 

  • Understanding the issue of recycling plastics in India.
  • Need for regulation of informal sector.
  • The Second Amendment (2021) is not in harmony with the earlier provisions.
  • The critical role of the bodies like FSSAI in the implementation of such amendment. 

The experts have unanimously voiced the concern that “with lack of proper facilities and standards for recycling there is only growing concern how these rules will be effectively implemented. And, ideally this amendment should have incorporated specific recommendations from FSSAI.”

The concern of the experts is that –

  • It is alleged that in India the majority of the recycling industry deploys very inferior quality recycling machines which can potentially make plastic more toxic in nature. Moreover, standards for the recycling of plastic have not been specified in India, making it all the more difficult to understand the chemical conformity of recycled plastic.
  • Such permission for use in food and medicine packaging could pose a serious threat to human life and the environment. It is a huge concern that continuous recycling of plastic not only degrades the quality but also brings in life-threatening toxic impurities in them apart from issues of collection and sorting of such plastic. 

Elsewhere, in countries like the US, manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the recycled product is of suitable purity. The Food and Drug Administration in the US is very well aware of the contaminants from post-consumer plastic that may appear in the final product. Therefore, each proposal of using recycled plastic is evaluated before issuing a no-objection letter. 

Also, The European Commission back in 2018 was preparing to fast-track approval of 140 recycling processes for use in food and drink packaging. The proposal to approve the said recycling processes has also involved the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, the final approval of each process rests with the european commission.

The impact, resilience, and growth of responsible packaging in a wide region are daily chronicled by Packaging South Asia.

A multi-channel B2B publication and digital platform such as Packaging South Asia is always aware of the prospect of new beginnings and renewal. Its 16-year-old print monthly, based in New Delhi, India has demonstrated its commitment to progress and growth. The Indian and Asian packaging industries have shown resilience in the face of ongoing challenges over the past three years.

As we present our publishing plan for 2023, India’s real GDP growth for the financial year ending 31 March 2023 will reach 6.3%. Packaging industry growth has exceeded GDP growth even when allowing for inflation in the past three years.

The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 33% over the past three years. With orders in place, we expect another 33% capacity addition from 2023 to 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels have grown similarly. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

Even given the disruptions of supply chains, raw material prices, and the challenge of responsible and sustainable packaging, packaging in all its creative forms and purposes has significant headroom to grow in India and Asia. Our context and coverage engulf the entire packaging supply chain – from concept to shelf and further – to waste collection and recycling. We target brand owners, product managers, raw material suppliers, packaging designers and converters, and recyclers.

In an admittedly fragmented and textured terrain, this is the right time to plan your participation and marketing support communication – in our impactful and highly targeted business platform. Tell us what you need. Speak and write to our editorial and advertising teams! For advertisement , for editorial and for subscriptions

– Naresh Khanna

Subscribe Now
unnamed 1


Subscribe to our Newsletter

As 2023 begins and FY 23-24 unfolds, will you support us?

What lies in store for the packaging industry in India and South Asia this coming year? Inflation, disruption of supply chains or environmental regulation? Or the resumption of high rural demand, continued investment and industry consolidation? Whatever happens, Packaging South Asia will be there, providing clarity and independent technical and business information in India and South Asia and around the world. We are a compact Indian organization bringing a window of fair and rigorous technical and business information that the industry can access this year and beyond. Please support us with your advertising and subscriptions, to keep us going and growing.

Thank you.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here