New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has directed the Centre and various stakeholders to file their submissions on a proposal that there should be a complete prohibition on the use of plastic packaging in food and pharmaceutical formulations of any kind.
"It appears that none of the concerned ministries are prepared to take a decision which according to them at one time was need of the hour in larger public interest. Be that as it may, we will proceed with hearing of the matter and take appropriate decision in accordance with law.
"We direct all the parties before us ie. Ministry of Health and MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests), CPCB and the Board under the Drugs Act and all the other respondents, stakeholders, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and all the private stakeholders to place a note," a bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by NGO Him Jagriti Uttaranchal Welfare Society seeking restrictions on the use of plastic bottle and multi-layered, plastic packages or pet bottles by imposing a ban on packaging of carbonated soft drink.
The tribunal slammed the MoEF over its affidavit which had said the ministry deliberated over various aspects of pet bottles packaging of food and food products but concluded that there was no conclusive data available to substantiate any claim.
The green bench deprecated the ministry for filing the affidavit through its Joint Director and said a matter of national importance cannot be handled by an officer of such level.
It also noted the submissions by the NGO which had referred to the minutes of the 70th meeting of the Drug Technical Advisory Board held on August 18.
The NGO contended that it has been clearly established that certain pharmaceutical preparations packaged in PET bottles upon testing showed presence of chromium, antimony, lead, etc at room temperature.
However, various plastic manufacturing firms denied this and said this test was not performed by the "accredited lab" and that too not along with controlled samples. Therefore, no weightage should be given to these findings.
The ministries appearing before the bench, however, said
that they do not support the contention that National Test House (NTH), which carried out testing, is not an accredited lab.
The green panel also noted that earlier the Drug Technical Advisory Board in its 65th meeting held on November 25, 2013 had expressed an opinion that "it would be in the public interest considering precautionary principle that children, old men, women in reproductive age are not exposed to the unhygienic environmental impacts of packing of pharmaceutical products in plastic/PET container".
The matter is listed for final arguments on day-to-day basis from September 14.
If banned, the order can have wide ramifications as various household item like spices, milk, hair oil, shampoo, beverages cereal, biscuits and carbonated drinks use Tetra pak cartons, plastic sachets and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles.
The bench had earlier noted the Central Pollution Control Board and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSO) have sought a ban on using PET bottles or plastic containers in liquid oral formulations for primary packing.