India’s National Green Tribunal has directed the Central Pollution Control Board to regulate the import of waste tyres, which are used in pyrolysis industry, to prevent India from becoming a dumping ground for highly polluting hazardous waste material from other nations.
Near Total Ban on Waste Tyre Imports Imminent in India
A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said the pyrolysis process involves high levels of pollution which adversely affects the health of workers.
Stating that there is a need for restrictions on import [of tyres] and regulation of such units, the Bench said, “Accordingly, the CPCB may issue appropriate directions on the subject after due consideration on the issue. The directions should also deal with the restrictions on import so as to ensure that India does not become a dump yard for highly polluting hazardous waste material from other countries and also to ensure that health of the workers involved in the process.”
In a report dated July 31, the CPCB had said there are 637 tyre pyrolysis units in 19 States in India. “Of 637 tyre pyrolysis units, 251 are complying, 270 are not complying and 116 are closed. In most cases, it was observed that the reason for non-compliance is not meeting the criteria of Standard Operating Procedure [SOP] of Ministry of Environment and Forests and the consent conditions issued by the State Pollution Control Boards,” the report said.
Noting the submissions made by the apex pollution control body, the NGT directed it to furnish a status and compliance report by November 30.
The directions came when the panel was hearing a plea moved by an NGO – Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE) – that sought a complete ban on end-of-life tyres in the pyrolysis industries due to non-implementation of the existing laws.
Messages coming from the Indian tyre sector give varied views. Some say the almost total ban on bales will come, others claim that there will be loopholes. In the UK some collectors who export surplus stock to India report a ban on the sale of tyre bales. It should be noted though, that the ban is not yet in place. What has happened though is that there have been changes to the import licences and fees to importers have climbed considerably possibly pushing some players out of the market.
Back in March 2019, India banned the import of waste plastics, but left a gaping loophole for importers in Special Economic Zones to continue importing plastics waste. It is anticipated by some that the same loophole will be allowed for tyres.
The UK’s DEFRA is aware of what is happening in India. However, we are not aware of what plans there are if a ban is imposed. There is every likelihood that waste exports will be displaced to alternative markets – Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand – all of whom have their own waste issues to deal with.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has stated that he wants to ban the export of UK waste. Whilst the editor of Tyre and Rubber Recycling has suggested this a a driver for recycling, it is highly unlikely that Mr. Johnson is fully aware of the amount of waste exported and the lack of facilities and infrastructure in the UK to deal with that waste.