IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


2nd April, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://eprplastic.cpcb.gov.in/#/plastic/home

Context: New rules introduced by the Union Environment Ministry address plastic pollution by setting standards for labelling disposable plastic ware, particularly products labelled as 'biodegradable', aiming to ensure their environmental impact is accurately communicated.


  • Microplastics, tiny plastic fragments less than a millimetre in size, have become a major environmental concern. These persistent pollutants contaminate rivers, oceans, and even the food chain, posing a threat to ecosystems and potentially human health.
  • In response, India is taking a stricter approach to regulating "biodegradable" plastics, a supposedly eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastics.

What is Biodegradable Plastic?

Biodegradable plastics were introduced as a potential solution to plastic waste.

These plastics would decompose naturally after use, minimising plastic accumulation in landfills and the environment.

Challenges with current regulations

  • Incomplete Breakdown: Previous regulations in India lacked clear definitions for "biodegradable." There were no guarantees that these plastics would fully decompose, potentially leaving behind microplastics.
  • Testing Ambiguity: The existing rules didn't specify how to measure biodegradability or the acceptable level of microplastics remaining after breakdown. This ambiguity created uncertainty for both manufacturers and consumers.

New Rules announced by the Union Environment Ministry

  • The Environment Ministry has recently introduced amendments to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, aiming to tighten the definition of "biodegradable" plastics.
  • No Microplastics Allowed: The new definition requires complete biodegradation, leaving no microplastics behind. This is a significant step towards preventing further plastic waste pollution, even from supposedly eco-friendly alternatives.

Industry concerns

  • Microplastics from Multiple Sources: Microplastic pollution comes from various sources, including clothing fibres, car tyres, and industrial processes. Manufacturers believe both biodegradable and compostable plastics should be subject to the same standardised microplastics test (once established) to ensure fairness.
  • Testing Challenges Remain: The new rules lack specific details on testing methods. Manufacturers are unsure of the exact tests or acceptable microplastic levels required for "biodegradable" labelling. This ambiguity creates challenges in proving compliance with the new regulations.
  • Incomplete Degradation Concerns: Current regulations by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) define "biodegradable" as a plastic sample that degrades by 90%.  However, achieving this level can take years.

Way Forward

  • The Need for Research and Development: Further research is needed to develop improved biodegradable plastics that break down completely and don't generate microplastics. This could involve exploring different biodegradation rates and mechanisms under various environmental conditions.
  • Consumer Education: Raising public awareness about responsible plastic use and disposal habits is essential. Consumers can help by choosing products with minimal packaging, properly disposing of waste, and supporting companies that prioritise sustainable practices.
  • Compostable Plastics: Compostable plastics, which require industrial composting facilities to break down, can also be a viable alternative to traditional plastics. However, ensuring proper composting infrastructure is available is crucial for their effectiveness.


  • India's new regulations on biodegradable plastics represent a positive step towards tackling microplastic pollution. However, establishing clear testing standards and addressing industry concerns are crucial for effective implementation. By working together, policymakers, manufacturers, scientists, and consumers can find innovative solutions to address plastic pollution and protect our environment for future generations.

Must-Read Articles:

MICROPLASTICS: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/microplastics-2#:~:text=What%20are%20microplastics%3F,which%20are%20difficult%20to%20detect.

PLASTIC WASTES IN INDIA: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/microplastics-2#:~:text=What%20are%20microplastics%3F,which%20are%20difficult%20to%20detect.


Q. Plastic waste breaks down into tiny microplastics, which pollute our environment and enter the food chain. How to design new recycling technologies or plastic materials themselves to minimise microplastic creation during the recycling process or product breakdown?