India flag waving in the wind.A complete ban on scrap plastic imports into India will be delayed until the end of August, giving the global plastics recycling industry some time to adapt.

The Indian government on March 6 announced it will prohibit all scrap plastic imports, citing environmental concerns and an interest in bolstering domestic manufacturing. The ban is structured in a way that ends previous exemptions allowing businesses in certain designated economic development districts (often referred to as “units”) to import plastics.

The initial press release omitted any details on when the ban would take effect, and some sources described the ban as effective immediately.

But an office memorandum from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, dated March 7 and reviewed by E-Scrap News this week, provides more detail on the delay.

“In view of ongoing industrial activities in such units and to ensure smooth compliance of these norms, a window of six months, i.e. up to 31st August, 2019 may be provided” to companies importing scrap plastic in the economic development zones.

“During this period the units may be allowed the import of plastic scrap,” the memo continues.

At the Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show last week, Surendra Patawari, chairman of scrap materials broker and logistics company Gemini Corporation, spoke about the ban and also confirmed the delay, citing direct communications with government officials.

The India action was referenced many times during the conference, as was the potentially delayed implementation date. Adina Renee Adler, senior director for government relations and international affairs at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), noted the rumored delay during a presentation on recycling market changes.

“Certainly we hope that they’ll at least delay it so that we can continue the conversation and we can adapt to that certain new market reality,” Adler said.

She also briefly contrasted the Indian plastic ban with the stringent scrap import policies put in place by the Chinese government last year. Although both governments used similar language citing environmental concerns in implementing the scrap import bans, Adler drew a distinction.

“I do believe this is a different situation than we’ve had with China: India is a country that is still grappling with much pollution issues, but they’re not blaming the imports,” Adler said. “It’s just that maybe the imports do exacerbate the problem.”

India imported 294 million pounds of scrap plastic from the U.S. last year. That was 12.4 percent of total U.S. scrap plastic exports.

Photo credit: Tukaram.Karve/Shutterstock

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