IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA. AT ERNAKULAM.
Wednesday , the 29th day of September, 1999/ 7th Aswin, 1921
The Hon`ble Mrs.Justice K.K.Usha
The Hon`ble Mr.Justice R.Rajendra Babu.
The Secretary Corporation of Cochin and others.-------------Respondents
W.A.No. 174/1997 , W.A.No. 181/97,
O.P.No. 1888/1998 & O.P.No. 2628/1998.
1. Pursuant to a direction issued by this Court the Kerala State Pollution Control Board has produced before this Court a copy of the notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests published in the Gazette of India Extraordinary No.538 dated 2-9-1999 as S.O.705(E). The notification contains a set of Rules called Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999. It has come into force on its publication in the Official Gazette. Rule 4 provides that no vendor shall use carry bags or containers made of recycled plastics for storing, carrying, dispensing of packaging of foodstuffs. The word "foodstuffs" is defined under Sec.2(b) as `ready to eat food and food products, fast food, processed and cooked food in liquid, powder, solid or semi-solid form`. The "Vendor" is defined as "the person who sells foodstuffs as defined above packaged and stored in plastic carry bags and containers". Rule 5 lays down certain conditions of manufacture of carry bags and containers made of plastics. It provides that carry bags and containers made of virgin plastic shall be in natural shade or white and carry bags and containers made of recycled plastic and used for purposes other than storing and packaging foodstuffs shall be manufactured using pigments of the specified quality. Rule 6 gives certain guidelines regarding recycling of plastics. Rule 7 provides for giving certain code marks by the manufacturers of recycled plastic carry bags. Rule 8 provide that the minimum thickness of carry bags made of virgin plastics or recycled plastics shall not be less than 20 microns. Rule 9 permits the Plastic Industry Association to have its own self-regulatory measures without prejudice to the provisions contained in rule 3.
2. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board had made available to the Court a note on environmental problems due to waste plastics. It refers to the biodegradability of plastics and the efforts made to develop methods to create more biodegradable types of plastics. Under the heading "environmental policy and legislation in India" it is mentioned that the Government of Himachal Pradesh has enacted the Himachal Pradesh Non-biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act 1995 envisaging the prohibition of throwing or depositing plastic articles in public places. The Act has provisions regarding collection of garbage through identifiable and marked receptacles placed at convenient places. Reference is also made to a task force established by the Government of India and the action plan towards an integrated Plastics Waste Management in India. Reference is also made to the prohibition brought in by the Government of Bangladesh in 1993 regarding production of use plastic bags. Considering the environmental pollution caused by the waste plactics, use and production of plastics has been prohibited in Shimla. Government of Himachal Pradesh has imposed penalty of imprisonment for a term of one month or a fine of Rs.5,000/- for recklessly throwing plastic away. At the end, the Government of India notification dated 2-9-1999 bringing into force the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 is referred.
3. As per the above Rules (rule 3) State Pollution Control Board is the prescribed authority under the State to enforce the provisions of the above Rule relating to manufacture of recycled plastics. The prescribed authority for enforcement of the provisions of the rules relating to the use, collection, segregation, transportation and disposal is the District Collector/Deputy Commissioner of the respective district.
4. Recommendations of the Kerala Legislative Committee on Environment in its 5th report submitted on 22nd July, 1997 on the subject of environmental problems due to plastic waste is also mentioned. The tenth Kerala Legislative Committee on Environment in the 13th report submitted on 5th August, 1998 recommended that use of plastic carry bags and plastic water bottles should be banned at Nilakkal, Pamba and Sannidhanam at Sabarimala. Certain suggestions are also given at the end of the report of the Board. The first suggestion is to direct the concerned authority the implement the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 at the earliest.
5. C.M.P.No.5403/99 has been filed by the Kerala Plastic Manufacturer`s Association and an individual plastic manufacture for getting impleaded in W.A.No.174/97. C.M.P.No.5404/99 is filed by a private limited company which is engaged in plastic manufacture to be impleaded in W.A.No.174/97. We allowed both the petitions. We heard the learned counsel appearing in the writ petitions and the parties in the writ appeal as also the learned counsel for the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and the counsel appearing for the petitioners who got impleaded under the above mentioned two petitions.
6. The Apex Committee constituted to oversee the activities for eradication of mosquito menace from the area covered by Corporation of Cochin had at its meeting held on 26-7-1999 noted that free flow in several drains in the city is obstructed due to clogging from the discarded plastic carry bags and other plastic packing materials. Such drains are breeding centers of mosquitoes. Counsel appearing for all the parties before us uniformly submitted that steps are to be taken to see that non-biodegradable plastic bags and other such plastic packing materials are not thrown after use in public places and also into the drains. The learned counsel appearing for the additional respondents who got impleaded today submitted the effort made by the association to segregate and collect such materials from public places was not successful. According to them, there should be an awareness campaign among the public. It was also submitted by counsel on all sides that if the provisions of central rules notified on 2-9-1999 are implemented, then the manufacture of the thin plastic carry bags which form major portion of the litter will not be available at all for the use by the public. It would thus solve to some extend the problem of clogging the drains and also the larger problem of environmental pollution.
7. We are convinced that urgent and immediate steps are to be taken to implement the provisions of the Rules as part of the programme for eradication of mosquitoes also. Under rule 3 the prescribed authority for enforcement of the provisions of the Rules related to the manufacture and recycling shall be the State Pollution Control Board in respect of a State If no prescribed authority for enforcement of the provisions of the Rules relating to the use, collection, segregation, transportation and disposal is constituted the District Collector of the concerned district shall act as the prescribed authority. It is not brought to our notice that any such authority has been constituted for the above mentioned purpose in State of Kerala. That being the position, it is the duty of the District Collector to see that the provisions of the Rules relating to the use, collection, segregation, transportation and disposal are implemented.
8. We direct the Kerala State Pollution Control Board to take immediate steps to enforce the provisions of the Rules relating to manufacture and recycling. The District Collector, Ernakulam who is a party to the proceedings and also the Chaiman of the Apex Committee will also take appropriate steps to enforce the provisions of the Rules relating to use, collection, segregation, transportation and disposal. The District Collector will give sufficient public notice regarding the provisions of the Rules and implement the Rules in a time-bound manner, so that it will not create any difficulty for the uninformed members of the public. There will be a direction to the Cochin Corporation to give all co-operation and assistance to the District Collector in the matter of enforcement of the provisions of the Rules as mentioned above. There will be a further direction to the Government to give sufficient publicity through its Public Relations Department about the provisions of Recycled Plastic Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 issued by Government of India. Therefore, when the Rules are implemented by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and District Collectors of the respective districts people will be aware of the restrictions brought under the statutory rules.
9. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board, District Collector, Ernakulam and State of Kerala will file statements before this Court on or before 21-10-1999 regarding steps taken by them to implement the directions given above.
A copy of the order will be handed over to the learned Government Pleader, standing counsel for the Corporation counsel for the petitioners and standing counsel for the Kerala State Pollution Control Board.
29th September, 1999. Sd/- K.K. Usha, Judge.
Sd/- R. Rajendra Babu, Judge.