Plastics materials in India

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India has witnessed[when?] a substantial growth in the consumption of plastics and an increased production of plastic waste. Polyolefins account for the major share of 60% in the total plastics consumption[when?] in India. Packaging is the major plastics consuming sector, with 42% of the total consumption, followed by consumer products and the construction industry. The relationship observed between plastic consumption and the gross domestic product for several countries was used to estimate future plastics consumption (master curve). Elasticities of the individual material growth with respect to GDP were established for the past and for the next three decades estimated for India thereby assuming a development comparable with that of Western Europe. On this basis, the total plastics consumption is projected to grow by a factor of six between 2000 and 2030. The consumption of various end products is combined with their corresponding lifetimes to calculate the total waste quantities. The weighted average lifetime of plastics products was calculated as 8 years. Forty-seven percent of the total plastics waste generated is currently recycled in India; this is much higher than the share of recycling in most of the other countries. The recycling sector alone employs as many people as the plastics processing sector, which employs about eight times more people than the plastics manufacturing sector. Due to the increasing share of long-life products in the economy, and consequently in the volume of waste generated, the share of recycling will decrease to 35% over the next three decades. The total waste available for disposal (excluding recycling) will increase at least 10-fold up to the year 2030 from its current level of 1.3 million tonnes.


In India, plastics consumption grew exponentially in the 1990s. During the last decade, the total consumption of plastics grew twice as fast (12% p.a.) as the gross domestic product growth rate based on purchasing power parities (6% p.a.). The current growth rate in Indian polymer consumption (16% p.a.) is clearly higher than that in China (10% p.a.) and many other key Asian countries. The average Indian consumption of virgin plastics per capita reached 3.2 kg in 2000/2001 (5 kg if recycled material is included) from a mere 0.8 kg in 1990/1991. However, this is only one-fourth of the consumption in China (12 kg/capita, 1998) and one sixth of the world average (18 kg/capita). This consumption led to more than 5400 tonnes of plastics waste being generated per day in 2000/2001 (totalling 2 million tonnes per annum).

The increasing quantities of plastics waste and their effective and safe disposal has become a matter of public concern. The increasingly visible consequences of indiscriminate littering of plastic wastes (in particular plastic packaging wastes and discarded bags) has stimulated public outcry and shaped policy. Littering also results in secondary problems such as drains becoming clogged and animal health problems (both domesticated and wild).


The consumption of plastics will increase about sixfold between 2000 and 2030. The share of polyolefins in India will remain at about 60%, a percentage comparable to that of Western Europe. In 2030, plastics waste for disposal (excluding recycled plastics) will increase 10 times compared to the situation in the year 2000/2001; this model result assumes that the plastics recycling rates will remain at the current level for the next three decades. Nevertheless, it is more likely that the recycling rates will decrease with the increasing level of wealth; in this case, plastics waste for disposal will grow by more than a factor of 10 between 2000 and 2030. Waste for disposal is increasing relatively faster than the plastics consumption because of the higher share of long-life products in waste and the lower recycling rates of these products.


  • APME (Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe). Plastics Packaging Consumption,Waste and Recycling 1994 Data (revised version). Brussels, Belgium: APME; 1996b.
  • APME (Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe). Plastics—An Analysis of Plastics Consumption and Recovery in Western Europe, 1998. Brussels, Belgium: APME; 2000.
  • APME (Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe). Information System on PlasticsWaste Management in Europe—European Overview 1999 Data. Brussels, Belgium: APME; 2001

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