How to obtain a Plastic Import License in India
With all its advantages, like being cheap, recyclable, mouldable, lightweight and durable, plastic has played a crucial role in the development of modern-day society and the present economy. But the problem of plastic waste management has been a warning to all this development. In 2015, India banned the import of plastic waste into the country, particularly PET bottles, citing the inability to recycle the waste. But in 2019, the government uplifted the blanket ban to allow restricted items to be imported. But this was possible only after obtaining the plastic import license.
Measures like limiting or banning certain plastic items and promoting the use of alternatives seemed to work. Hence, many plastic reprocessing industries and waste processing facilities came into existence. At the same time, India has been importing virgin plastic and plastic-made items. When compared globally, the per capita plastic consumption of plastic in India is less. The average stands at 11 kg, significantly less than many countries with similar economies. Imports of Plastic and its articles increased to 6163.13 USD Million in 2021 from 2338.89 USD Million in 2020. Thus, new plastic products and recyclable plastic waste must only be imported after obtaining Plastic Import License and permits from government agencies. The authorities involved in granting this licence are the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Directorate General of Foreign Trade(DGFT), Central Board of Excise and Customs(CBIC), etc.
Scope of New Plastic Items Import Business
In India, almost 80% of PET scrap produced domestically gets recycled. Prominent recyclers in the countries even demand permission to import plastic waste. This is done by citing a lack of plastic waste domestically, especially after India imposed a blanket ban on plastic imports in 2019. Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) later allowed a restricted import of plastic waste, which has high recyclability and is profitable to recycle. But all this must be done after obtaining a plastic import license.
Later, in 2021, the DGFT replaced the term 'prohibited' with 'restricted' in the import policy of polyethene terephthalate (PET or single-use plastics) flakes/PET waste. For instance, plastic from construction and demolition (C&D) waste and e-waste are profitable and highly recyclable. The government has allowed allowing restricted items to be imported, including-
- PVC floorings scrap, where scrap denotes industrial trimmings and rejects
- A restricted import of cellulose nitrates film scrap that can be non-plasticised or plasticised
- Import of waste and scrap epoxide resins (under the free category)
- Cellulose waste such as cellulose acetate film scrap (non-plasticised and plasticised)
Scope of Plastic Waste Import Businesses in India
China, the USA and Saudi Arabia are the major countries where India imports most of its virgin plastic and plastic products. The situation changes if we consider how much waste plastic enters the country. As China has announced an unrestricted ban on its plastic waste import, a gap has been created in waste management on a global level. India also has a strict policy for importing waste plastic into the country. Many business opportunities in the import of plastic waste are present in the country today. Recent developments also indicate that the global waste trade in plastic will continue to grow as governments worldwide have started to understand that plastic pollution is not limited by international boundaries but affects everyone. Promoting recycling will need a combined effort of all. Therefore, regulating it rather than restricting it is ultimately a better alternative. Regulating it is possible by imposing conditions like obtaining a plastic waste import licence.
Legalities to be met for obtaining a Plastic Import License
The applicant must apply for EPR Authorisation from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to obtain a plastic import license.S/hemust then obtain permission from DGFTto import the waste. At this stage, the importer has to show the purpose of plastic waste import. The importer also needs to prove that she/he can recycle the waste or has a channel of recyclers and plastic waste processing facilities. Furthermore, he/she has to maintain a record of the plastic waste handled, as the DGFT allows import to the actual users.
Before giving clearance, all imported consignments of such plastic waste will be subjected to scrutiny and testing of samples. The customs authorities draw a sample and send the same to the nearest laboratory/office of the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering & Technology (CIPET). The concerned State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB)/Pollution Control Committees (PCC) monitor the use of PVC scrap that has been imported.
When the MoEF&CC declared the Plastic Waste Amendment Rules in 2022, it mandatedEPR Authorisation for producers, importers and brand owners (PIBO) and Plastic Waste Processors (PWP). So, an importer must obtain EPR authorisation from CPCB. EPR compliance is compulsory for all the above entities generating pre-consumer and post-consumer plastic packaging waste. An importer seeking a plastic import license must obtain registration from CPCB or SPCBs/PCCs. For instance, the PIBO will have to receive registration from CPCB if it operates in more than two states or UTs. If the importer operates in only one or two states or UTs, the registration must be obtained from the respective SPCB/PCC. Importers are required to apply for enrollment in Form I along with an EPR Action Plan.
Documents Required for EPR Authorisation for Plastic Import License
The important documents required to obtain EPR Authorisation for Plastic Waste Management include the following:
- GST certificate
- Importer Exporter Code (IEC)
- Ownership documents of the facility
- Memorandum of Association
- Details of imported products
- Form 1 for EPR authorisation
- Copy of EPR plan and permission from relevant Ministry/ Department for selling their product
- Agreement’s copy with collection centre, dealers, recyclers, and TSDFs (Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities)
- Copy of trade licence issued by DGFT
- Self-declaration, including the importer’s name, authorised person, brand name and contact details.
Authorisation (Licence) from DGFT
Importing plastic wastes/scrap (except PET Bottle Waste/Scrap) is permitted only against an authorisation (licence) granted by DGFT. The license is granted after consultation with the Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals and MoEF & CC.
Documents Required for Plastic Import License from DGFT
- IEC certificate
- GST registration
- EPR Authorisation
- Any other document required by DGFT
Stages in the Import process of Waste Plastic Items
Documents &fee submission
The importer must submit the application seeking the plastic import licence for the import of unrestricted and restricted scrap items listed above. For the import of plastic waste, the application, along with all relevant documents mentioned above, must be addressed to the DGFT
DGFT thoroughly examines all applications in consultation with MoEF&CC. The permission to import will be granted only after all concerned departments are convinced of the capabilities of the importer to recycle the plastic waste.
Grant of licence
The permission will be issued to the importer in a time-bound manner. However, the validity of the licence will be limited, and the authorities can impose additional restrictions on the import conditions apart from the standard limits for safe transit and recycling of imported plastic waste.
Import of new Plastic Items in India
According to a notification released by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), the sample plastic items of each trading shipment must be tested. Furthermore, no permission to sell can be granted without successful quality testing. This is to regulate the import of sub-standard and cheap toys. Otherwise, after obtaining the said trade and plastic import license, the importer can enter into a contract with any supplier of items, provided that the items meet the safety and quality standards set by the Indian agencies. If the pricing, quality specifications, payment, delivery, mode of transport and other terms and conditions are agreed upon and fulfilled, the importer can easily import plastic items into the country.
Licences needed by the importer of new plastic items
- Company license
- Udyog Aadhaar MSME Registration
- BIS certificate
- GST certificate
- Trade license
Additional instructions issued by CBIC on new Plastic Items Import
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has issued instructions about the import restriction of products made of plastic into the country. The Board has issued the instructions related to the changes in the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules of 2021 and PWM (Amendment) Rules 2022. This was notified vide notification dated February 16, 2022. The fundamental changes related to import are the restriction of carrying bags made of virgin or recycled plastic less than seventy-five microns in thickness from September 30, 2021, and 120 microns w.e.f December 31, 2022. Additionally, the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the following single-use plastic (SUP), including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities are prohibited from July 01, 2022. The provisions do not apply to things that are made of compostable plastic.There by, obtaining a plastic import license becomes mandatory.
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