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Nodal ministry needed for material recycling industry: Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog

There is also a need to constitute special designated zones for recycling on the outskirts of every major city of India, and this should be mandatory, he noted.  

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July 28 2020
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There is a need to set up a nodal ministry for the material recycling industry for better regulation and development, said Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog. He emphasised that there is a massive opportunity due to the low rate of recycling at present, with the industry for the most part falling under the unorganised sector in India. “I think the opportunity is for those who get into the sector now. This is the sector of the future.”

If India has to become atmanirbhar, the recycling industry has to play a very critical role, he noted during a webinar hosted by the Material Recycling Association of India (MRAI) to highlight the current state of the country’s recycling sector. India had earlier launched a new national initiative to achieve “Atmanirbhar Bharat” or a “self-reliant India”.

Kant underlined the need for recycling all of the material being generated in India. He said many recyclers who have achieved success abroad in the business should bring back their knowledge, experience and expertise to create wealth through recycling in India. Touching upon the major recycling segments, he pointed out that plastic has about 60% recycling rate with a major portion of single-use plastics going to landfills, while glass recycling is at 40-50%. Though metal recycling is done in India, he said “it is yet to realise its full potential.”   

The CEO acknowledged there were challenges because “India is still at the early stage of the learning curve” be it the use of recycled material, technical standards, regulatory standards, all of which are at an early stage of implementation.

“This is a sector where there is a need for innovation through business model and engagement with the formal sector,” he commented.

Push for policy and nodal ministry

Kant acknowledged that the industry has been stressing “rationally and rightly so” that the material recycling industry needs to be given an industry status, and that the government also needs to make available necessary financial support. “We have drafted a Policy, which is in circulation with different ministries and I think this policy is critical to push for material recycling. We also need a nodal ministry and I think it should not be a regulatory ministry, because this is developmental work.”

Rather than the ministry of environment, it should probably fall under the department of industrial policy & promotion, he observed. “But the policy will help atmanirbhar by creating more employment and increasing environmental and social benefits.”  

The organisation is also shaping the policy in end-of-life usage of material as they push for a scrappage policy for automobiles “and you will soon see the results of this,” Kant said.

They are also pushing for schemes on e-waste, one of the fastest growing waste streams in India. There is a huge possibility in this segment and NITI has been supporting it through awareness and technical support schemes, he stated. The country already has e-scrap rules and ensuing amendments. The amount of e-waste generated in 2019 was approx. 3-4 million tons and per capita generation is almost 2.4 kg., and there is a great possibility that this will grow and expand further. Thus, the CEO stressed the need for regulatory monitoring and enforcement; transparency in publishing data; e-waste monitoring system; IT portal for end-of-life transactions; great dealer, e-commerce stakeholders’ liability and accounting; and a proper regulatory framework. 

Special material recycling zones

Kant also put the spotlight on the importance of constituting special designated zones for recycling on the outskirts of every major city of India. “It should be mandatory for every city to have a designated zone for material recycling.”

He voiced the need to bring the unorganised sector under organised sector for various regulatory and developmental measures, “on which we are taking action and we will take this forward in consultation with other ministries.”

Raising awareness

They have also raised a lot of awareness on the need for mainstreaming the recycling industry as the sector does not get enough attention due to the absence of a parent ministry, he noted. “We have taken the ownership of recycling, we are trying to create awareness on this aspect and  expect corporates to adopt principles of circular economy, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, which is very critical.” NITI has been interacting with key organisations such as CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, to spread the principles of circular economy and “at the heart of all this is our objective to have a methodology to recycle and circulate all the material in the economy,” Kant emphasised.

There is a policy thrust by many ministries on the recycling sector and they will extend all possible support, he said. “We will make full use of the existing mechanism to work for a very vibrant recycling sector in India,” he concluded.  

The speakers representing various recycling segments at the webinar called for early implementation of National Material Recycling Policy to help India become atmanirbhar.

The industry has been closely following up with various government entities regarding the recycling policy, also pitching for inclusion of the sector under “essential commodities” list like in many developed countries, said Sanjay Mehta, President MRAI, also calling for the implementation of the material recycling policy “so all our issues will be resolved at the earliest.”   

Gemini Corporation Chairman Surendra Borad Patawari urged NITI to impress upon the government the importance of recycling in preserving resources and its significant role in creating employment and prosperity. “Let’s create an incredible recycling success story in India. MRAI is doing a good job, and we need from you, long-term predictable policies.”  



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