E-commerce firms Amazon and Flipkart may have to pay dearly for violation of environmental norms, as the National Green Tribunal has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct an environmental audit and recover compensation from the firms for excessive plastic packaging.
"A report has been filed by the CPCB, which again mentions one or other reasons for not enforcing the law but does not mention the coercive measures adopted either directly by the CPCB or in coordination with the state pollution control boards… The CPCB can also consider ordering environmental audit against the concerned entities and assess and recover compensation for violation of environmental norms, following due process of law," a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice A K Goel said.
The action taken report should be submitted before the next date of hearing on October 14, by e-mail, the NGT said, adding that CPCB member secretary may be present during the hearing through video conferencing.
The direction from the green panel was issued after a 16-year-old boy, Aditya Dubey, with the help of a legal guardian filed a petition in the tribunal to stop excessive use of plastics in packaging of goods delivered by e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart.
"The e-commerce companies are covered under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. But due to a lack of monitoring and implementation, the respondents continue to use excessive amounts of plastic in wrapping and packaging their sold items," stated the plea, filed through advocate Meenesh Dubey.
Following it, the CPCB had told the NGT that e-commerce giants, under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, should set up a system for collecting plastic wastes generated by packaging of their goods. As per provisions 9 (2) of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, "Primary responsibility for collection of used multi-layered plastic sachet or pouches or packaging is of producers, importers and brand owners who introduce the products in the market," the CPCB had told NGT.
The petition contended that goods are delivered in cardboard boxes that are too large for the size of the items. "To ensure that the sold items do not move around in the outsized boxes, they wrap the items in multiple layers of plastic sheets and plastic bubble wraps and thereafter fill the large empty spaces in the boxes with additional sheets of single-use plastic.
"Single-use plastic has emerged as one of the biggest environmental challenges for our planet. It is cheap, useful, ubiquitous and very deadly. The fact that it's non-biodegradable and is recycled in very small percentages means that our planet with passage of time is becoming a big dumping ground for single-use plastic, which breaks down into smaller fragments known as microplastics and then contaminates soil and water," the petition had stated.