India is characterised by a highly dynamic economy, which has recorded an annual growth rate of above seven percent in recent years. This has resulted in the reduction of poverty rates across the entire country. While this development is highly desirable from the perspective of human well-being, it also results in increasing amounts of municipal solid waste (MSW). In many Indian cities, plastic waste has become a severe nuisance as it is openly dumped, burnt or otherwise inappropriately managed. In recent years, the Indian government has declared solid waste management (SWM) a national priority and has taken far-reaching steps to improve collection, treatment and disposal through a number of state and local government measures. This includes the overarching Clean India Mission (Swachh Bharat) as well as various state-sponsored investment programmes and policies, such as the circulation of the Unified Framework for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which seeks to guide the implementation of the Plastic Waste Management Rules from 2016. Despite these efforts, the extent of mismanaged plastics in India is still poorly understood, and to date, no systematic national assessment has been conducted.
Against this backdrop, the World Bank commissioned adelphi, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), BlackForest Solutions (BFS) and Cambridge Econometrics (CE) to conduct a comprehensive, empirical and data-based analytical assessment of mismanaged plastic waste at national and city levels. The assessment quantified the amount of mismanaged plastic waste and reviewed existing national-level policies and regulations across the plastics value chain – from extraction of raw materials, imports, manufacturing and usage, to plastic waste generation and recycling or final disposal. Based on this, the consortium developed a plastic pollution model that estimates the future trajectories of plastic waste generation in India along three different development scenarios: i) “business as usual” with few interventions to curb plastic consumption and waste generation; ii) “incremental change”, assuming increasingly ambitious policy and institutional interventions to improve downstream management of plastic waste; and iii) “transformative change” with ambitious and far-reaching reforms along the entire plastics value chain, including eco-design. Finally, the consortium compared the results from the Indian context with best practices in policy, institutions, technology and financing in order to develop recommendations for future interventions.
Building upon its experience from prior participation in waste management projects in India, adelphi was the project lead and thus in charge of the overall coordination, backstopping, implementation and quality control of this project. Additionally, adelphi contributed analytical expertise to the institutional, regulatory and policy assessment. On this basis of its long-standing experience with environmental policy instruments such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and their legal, administrative and technical implications, adelphi also contributed to the development of policy recommendations for the Indian context.