Govt grants six month extension to plastic scrap imports in three SEZs

The government has granted six months extension to listed recycling units in three special economic zones (SEZs) to import such materials. Domestic recycling units across the country face ban on import of plastic wastes following environmental concerns.

The Board of Approval for SEZs under the chairmanship of Anup Wadhawan, Secretary, Department of Commerce and with members from all leading departments involved in the monitoring of imports, met two weeks ago and decided to extend the letter of agreement (LoAs) for the three SEZs units for six months till May 31, 2020. The LoAs were scheduled to expire on November 30, 2019.

The three SEZs in which recycling units are now allowed to import plastic scrap include Kandla Special Economic Zone (Kasez), Kandla, Falta SEZ, Kolkata, and Noida Special Economic Zone (NSEZ), Noida.

“The board after deliberations, decided to grant an extension of validity of LoA for a period of six months beyond November 30, 2019 i.e. to May 31, 2020 to the listed plastic recycling units in KASEZ, Falta SEZ and NSEZ. The board directed to call a meeting with the committee on policy for plastic recycling to discuss the policy matter and while the policy provisions are deliberated, the physical exports of the units shall be assessed on annual basis,” said the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Approval under the Ministry of Commerce.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) vide its notification dated March 1, 2019 prohibited import of solid plastics waste in SEZs and Export Oriented Units (EoUs). But, a few dozen plastic recycling units were exempted from this.

Before the ban, India imported thousands of tonnes of plastic wastes from all across the world which often mixed with hazardous materials. Thus, processing of hazardous materials proved environment unfriendly. Hence, the government banned its import amid voluntary commitment to protect environment from pollution.

“The government banned issuing new licenses for plastic units about two decades ago but granted new licenses to new units in SEZs and EOUs to boost plastic exports and foreign exchange. If the government thinks plastic waste should be imported for landfills in India, import should be allowed for all interested recycling houses,” said a senior official of a plastic recycling unit.

In fact, the government has banned single use plastic of poor grade which is manufactured primarily from wastes as a raw material. Meanwhile, the renewal of LoAs will allow import of cheap raw materials and discourage scrap collection from local sources, the official added.