S.J.Jayaram v Corporation of Thiruvananthapuram, WP(C). No. 545 of 2012, High Courtof Kerala (14 September 2020)

Waste Plastics and plastic waste

In S.J.Jayaram v Corporation of Thiruvananthapuram, WP(C). No. 545 of 2012, High Court
of Kerala (14 September 2020)
, the petitioner claimed that the city of Thiruvananthapuram failed
its statutory duty of collecting waste and disposing of it properly. The petitioner asserted that the
non-degradable waste, including plastic waste, are burned and that burning plastic can result in
the release of highly dangerous emissions, particularly when the plastic comprises organochlor
based substances like PVC. Para. 2. The petitioner noted that such emissions include dioxins,
which are toxic chemicals that can be harmful to human organisms, causing cancer and
disrupting hormones. Despite submitting representations, city has not taken any action to rectify
the issue, which led the petitioner to approach the Court. Para. 2. 
The city argued that it took effective steps to treat plastic waste including collecting, recycling,
and establishing collection points in the city. Paras. 3-4. 

The Court found the city has a duty to collect, regulate and manage plastic waste, commenting
that “The menace that is caused due to the generation of plastic waste is inexplicable.” Para. 12. 
The unregulated use of plastic carry bags and their disposal into water bodies, drains, empty
plots of land, and public places has severely degraded the environment and constitutes a grave
threat to the environment, agriculture, flora, fauna, and even humanity and animals. Para. 12.
Waste can be managed effectively if all relevant stakeholders, including the public and the
government, are involved. Para. 12. The Court recognized the constitutional duty of the central
and decentralized governments to protect and improve the environment and held that every
citizen has a constitutional right to protect and improve the natural environment, including
forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, as well as to have compassion for living creatures. Para. 13. 

The Court concluded by directing the city to “ensure that the plastic waste is collected and
managed” in accordance with the law, “failing which, necessary and adequate steps shall be
taken against appropriate authorities [as provided by law] ruthlessly.” Para. 13.