The “laminated paper cups” are 95% paper. Still fall under single use plastic ban, HC rules

New Delhi: Taking seriously the environmental degradation caused by single-use plastic products, Rajasthan High Court upheld state ban on laminated paper cups on Friday, which are 95% paper and 5% plastic.

A single-judge court, Samir Jain, was hearing a written petition from a group of producers challenging a notice issued by the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board (RSPCB). The RSPCB had ordered the closure of industries that make laminated paper cups as part of a single-use plastic ban.

In August 2021, the Union The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change has issued a notification under the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016 banning the manufacture, import, storage, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items as of 1 July 2022. Following this, the RSPCB issued a series of advisories in April and July 2022 for the anticipated closure of the plaintiff businesses.

Single-use plastics consist mainly of chemicals based on fossil fuels (petrochemicals) and must be disposed of immediately after use. The list of prohibited items under the 2021 notification includes earphones with plastic sticks, plastic balloon sticks, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice cream sticks, styrofoam (Thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups , glasses, cutlery or banners in PVC less than 100 microns and stirrers, among others.

The manufacturers, however, applied to the Rajasthan High Court arguing that laminated paper cups were not banned by the 2021 notification. According to them, the notification it banned only 19 specific products and did not impose a blanket ban on the use of all single-use plastics.

The petitioners further argued that the State Council could not enforce such a ban as it would constitute a restriction of several fundamental rights conferred by the Constitution Article 19(1)(g) (right to liberty and occupation]), Article 21 (right to life) and Article 14 (right to equality).

Meanwhile, lawyers Sandeep Pathak and Shashwat Purohit, appearing for the RSPCB, raised objections over the maintainability and merits of the dispute.

The lawyers told the court that the plastic cups had been on the banned items list from the beginning and the case of the laminated cups was being examined by a national task force set up for that purpose. in June 2022.

After due deliberations, it was clarified by the National Task Force that under the ban/ban on single-use plastic products, there was no exemption cut out for plastic-coated paper cups/laminated paper cups, the attorneys argued , claiming that such laminated mugs had been banned by the original notification itself.

It was only in compliance with the ban notification and the national task force meeting that the state council ordered the closure of industries that make laminated paper cups, they added.

After hearing the arguments, the high court rejected the written petitions, finding that such paper cups are indeed banned, and ordered the state government to implement the notification banning single-use plastics.

Consequently, the product manufactured by the plaintiff firm, namely the plastic/coated cards, would fall within the scope of the notification in question, the court stated.

Read also: From spoons to flags, as the government’s plastic ban aims to phase out single-use items of low utility

Part of the ban, no exceptions

According to the petitioners, the laminated paper cups were not a part of the prohibited material as they are, at best, a multi-layered product.

The products comprised 95 percent paper and 5 percent thin layer of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), where the LDPE layer is only used to add a seal to the product and provide water resistance, the petition states.

Calling the state council’s actions excessive in scope, the petition also argued that, If the notification in question issued by defendant no. 3 intended to prohibit the manufacture, use, sale, etc. he said.

However, During Friday’s hearing, Judge Jain considered the composition of the product and said it was difficult to accept that the product produced was not actually plastic.

The court stated that since plastics containing LDPE (low density polyethylene) manufactured by the appellants refers to a material that cannot be reused multiple times, constitutes a single-use plastic for the purposes of the ban.

In their argument, the lawyers representing the RSPCB also stated: At the time of production, the petitioners were fully aware that they are used for the production of laminated cups, which are single use plastics.

Therefore, based on the above, it can be concluded conclusively that the product manufactured by the applicants is no different from the items which have been prohibited/prohibited, the court stated, noting that the interpretation must be made in a way that favors the purpose of legislation prohibiting the use of plastic.

Justice Jain also noted that the RSPCB was acting within its powers by issuing closure notices to the petitioners. He also gave a clear denunciation of the state on allegations of violations of fundamental rights, saying that the ban on single-use plastics was a reasonable restriction.

The high court also ordered the government to ensure the environment is as clean as possible and remains free of plastic.

(Akshat Jain is a student at National Law University, Delhi, and an intern at ThePrint)

(edited by Richa Mishra)

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