The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench, directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), dated 10th September 2020, to conduct an environmental audit and recover fine from e-commerce firms like Amazon, Flipkart and some beverages firms for violation of environmental norms in handling plastic waste generated by them. The order was passed in two original applications, seeking enforcement of ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
The first petition sought enforcement of the liability against Amazon and Flipkart using excessive plastic packaging material without meeting the statutory liability. The second petition alleged a violation of such statutory liability by the following:
- M/s Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd. (CCIPL)
- M/s Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd
- PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd.,
- M/s Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd.
- M/s Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd.
- M/s Patanjali Peya Private Ltd.
- M/s Nourish Co-Beverages Ltd.
- M/s Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corp. Ltd.
Arguments before the Court
The applicant claimed in both the petitions that the above-mentioned firms violated the statutory liability by using excessive plastic packaging material.
In the case of Shailesh Singh v. State of U.P. & Ors., in 2019, the NGT asked the CPCB to place a review and ‘action taken’ report for ensuring enforcement of E-Waste Management Rules, 2016. The Principal Bench ordered for remedial action against unscientific disposal of e-waste resulting in contamination of groundwater and soil acidification.
The case dealt with the concept of ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ which is incorporated under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and E-Waste Management Rules, 2016.
Extended Producer Responsibility is a legislative strategy used by most industrialized nations to promote reuse, recycling, and eco-friendly disposal of polymer waste. EPR assigns the responsibility of disposal of this waste to the manufacturer of the goods. For example, disposal of flexible packaging used for food items, consumer goods, and water bottles are assigned to consumer goods manufacturers. Similarly, the responsibility of disposal of waste tires disposal responsibility is assigned to the tires manufacturing companies under EPR.
The NGT bench comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson), Justice SP Wangdi (Judicial Member) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member), observed that the statutory regulators were not taking coercive measures including invoking of “Polluter Pays” principle for enforcing the statutory norms. CPCB filed a report dated, 4th September 2020 which mentions one or other reasons for not enforcing the law but does not mention the coercive measures adopted either directly by CPCB or in coordination with the State PCBs/PCCs.
The Bench ordered the Board to undertake ‘environment audit’ of these companies, to assess and recover compensation for violation of environmental norms.
“…..CPCB can also consider ordering environmental audit against the concerned entities and assess and recover compensation for violation of environmental norms, following due process of law.”
“Let further steps be taken in the matter and an action taken report to be filed before the next.”
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