Approaches to tackle marine litter in India

Polluted river banks, India

Marine litter threatens ecosystems, affects public health and negatively impacts fishery and tourism industries around the globe. The amount of plastic waste that has accumulated in our oceans and marine ecosystems has alarmed the public and policy makers alike. However, despite ambitious national and international goals, at local levels mere end of pipe measures, such as beach clean-ups, prevail. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi recently has announced to tackle the plastic waste issue at its root, phasing out single use plastics by 2022. The Indian national framework on plastic waste management moreover aims at introducing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and third party monitoring mechanisms. India’s private sector is also taking initiative: some of the country’s largest fast moving consumer goods companies have launched a packaging waste management entity to step up recycling and collection rates. Nevertheless, the challenges remain sizable: India’s plastic processing industry is expected to produce 22 million tonnes during the year 2020. Whilst accurate data on plastic waste and marine litter in particular is largely unavailable for most parts of the country, the struggle is visible, with illegal landfills, plastic piles along roadsides, rivers and beaches, and clogged drainage systems. About 40 percent of the plastic waste generated remains uncollected. Three of the ten rivers transporting most of the world’s plastic waste to the oceans are located in India. Most of this waste is generated by cities with poor municipal waste management systems located along those streams. 

Under the G20 Action Plan, the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) will commission two projects to tackle marine litter in India at its source. Both projects started in 2020 and are implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). adelphi was responsible for designing the projects, define their desired outcomes and specify respective objectives, indicators and activities. To lay a solid foundation for these goals, adelphi’s project team conducted in-depth desk research as well as numerous stakeholder meetings and site visits during a two-week mission to the selected Indian states and cities.

The project “Circular Economy Solutions Preventing Marine Litter in Ecosystems” aims at reducing, reusing and recycling plastics to prevent marine litter in river and marine ecosystems in three states in India. Under the umbrella of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), this project supports relevant regulatory authorities, like the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, in developing and using digital technologies to quantify and track marine litter, monitor leakages in the selected ecosystems, and work on implementing EPR. Demonstration projects to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, such as deposit refund schemes for PET bottles, milk-vending machines, Material Recovery Facilities, and the enforcement of green protocols will be implemented jointly with producers of plastic packaging and recyclers. At the national level, the capacities of the Indian partner ministry and the Marine Litter Cell for the implementation of a national framework on Extended Producer Responsibility will be strengthened.

The overall objective of the project “Cities Combatting Plastic Entering the Marine Environment” is to improve practices to prevent plastics and other non-biodegradable waste entering the marine environment.  For this, the BMU will partner with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs as well as nodal agencies at state and city level, such as Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Urban Development Departments. The project will follow a multi-level approach targeting the city, state and national level in order to improve data availability and handling on recycling and reuse quantities on plastic. Additionally, there will be demonstration projects to prevent the disposal of plastic waste to water bodies, such as through the establishment of collection and segregation systems as well as the set-up of Material Recovery Facilities. The demonstration projects will be implemented in the cities Kanpur, Kochi and Port Blair.