NGT directs CPCB to regulate highly-polluting pyrolysis industry; restrict import of waste tyres

The CPCB report said that in case of non-compliance it has initiated action such as closure of violating industries as well as time specific directions

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in original petition of NGO, SAFE vs Union of India directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), in an order of Sept. 19, to monitor the compliance and file a report on or before November 30, on pollution being caused by the pyrolysis industry- engaged in converting waste tyres into industrial-use oil.

Founder of SAFE, environmentalist Vikrant Tongad had alleged in the petition that “use of waste tyres by the pyrolysis industry that is engaged in producing inferior quality ‘pyrolysis oil’, pyrolysis gas, solid residue, carbon black and steel through the pyrolysis process needs to be banned to prevent environmental damage.” The petition had further stated that “the activity emits highly carcinogenic/cancer-causing pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), dioxin, furans and oxides of nitrogen which are extremely harmful to the respiratory system.”

Noting the apprehension raised by the NGO, the NGT noted that a comprehensive performance assessment of pyrolysis industries should be ordered to be done through the state and regional pollution control boards or SPCBs or an independent agency, in order to gauge the magnitude of the problem at hand.

The petitioner NGO also demanded that the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) must be made mandatory for tyre manufacturers as well as tyre importers.

Thereafter, the NGT asked the CPCB to come up with a set of guidelines on April 25. The CPCB submitted a report on July 31 that stated that “there are 637 tyre pyrolysis units in 19 states of the country. Out of 637 tyre pyrolysis units, 251 units are complying, 270 units are not complying and 116 units are closed. In most of the cases, it was observed that the reason of non-compliance is not meeting the criteria of SOP of MoEF & CC and the consent conditions issued by the SPCBs/PCCs.”

The CPCB also said that in case of non-compliance it has initiated action such as closure of violating industries as well as time specific directions for improvement or notices for compliance.

The CPCB report also suggested remedial measures outlining: that only continuous pyrolysis units be allowed and all the units having batch process be asked to switch over to continuous process within a given time frame of one year and till the time of conversion their operation be stopped; the feed to the continuous reactors should be in the form of tyre chips and mechanical feeding system with air lock arrangements so that no air enters in the reactors;  the unit should install packed bed scrubber for control of gaseous emission and reduction of odour; the tyre pyrolysis units should strictly follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by MoEF& CC for continuous process and the consent conditions issued by state pollution control boards. Health hazards were also posed to workers engaged in the industry.

In the light of the CPCB report and submissions, the NGT said in its order, that as per its information the CPCB is going to issue a direction under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 directing switchover to ‘continuous process’ within one year. The Tribunal’s attention was also drawn to SOP on ‘import and recycling of waste pneumatic tyres’ to the effect that said tyres fall in Hazardous Waste Rules category.

The Tribunal said that it was sufficiently convinced that the process of pyrolysis results in high levels of pollution that also adversely affects the health of the workers involved in the process and directed the CPCB to ensure safety of health of the workers engaged in the industry.

Accordingly, the NGT also asked the CPCB to issue appropriate directions that should include directions on restrictions on import, so as to ensure that India does not become a dump yard for highly polluting hazardous waste material from other countries.

By Prasoon Pant