The present-day lifestyle revolves on the ever-increasing needs of the mankind much of which depends on plastic. Being inexpensive and durable, plastic caters multiple needs, including but not limited to use as utensils, carry bags, packaging material, home-décor items, furniture, floor tiles, etc. Despite their numerous advantages, the biggest menace which tags along plastic is its inability to degrade which results in its accumulation in the ecosystem thereby interfering with the lifecycles of various living organisms.
The Government in India is focusing on the reduction of the use of plastics with the objective to decrease the harm being caused to the ecosystem in the form of various legislations and regulations issued from time to time. In furtherance to the same, the regulatory body - National Green Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as the “NGT”) established in accordance with the provisions of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 issues various orders aiming for environment protection. The NGT vide its order dated May 31, 2019 discussed the adverse impact of plastic, including polyethylene terephthalate (hereinafter referred to as “PET”) bottles and multi-layered packs such as Tetra Packs, on the health and elevation caused in the waste levels. Analysis was also made on the use of recycled plastic in food and beverages may be injurious to human health. Emphasis was also made on migration of mutagens/carcinogens from PET bottles into mineral water thus contaminating the same.
The NGT evaluated that two sets of regulations were separately laid down being the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging) Regulations, 2018 and the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 replacing the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011 which give a list of suggested packaging material to be used for different food items. It was concluded that the Plastic Waste Management Rules were deficient and the Packaging and Labelling Regulations, 2018 under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 do not deal with the issue in entirety and are not adequate to deal with the problem caused by plastic used in food and beverages.
The NGT held that the requirement of further regulatory provisions pertaining to the restriction on the use of plastic for packaging is to be examined by an expert committee comprising of representatives of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Bureau of Indian Standards, Central Pollution Control Board and Director General of Health Services.