Industry seeks clarity on single-use plastic ban; officials say each state following its own policies is fragmenting industry

Industry has urged the Centre to issue clear guidelines on phasing out single use plastics by 2022. Companies said an outright ban would escalate costs and lead to job losses which currently stand at 4.5 lakh with 10000 units facing closure.

Industry seeks clarity on single-use plastic ban; officials say each state following its own policies is fragmenting industry
New Delhi: Industry has sought clarity on the government’s plan to phase out single-use plastic by 2022 and urged the Centre to issue clear guidelines. An outright ban would escalate costs and lead to job losses and disrupt supply chains, companies said.

The uncertainty “has led to the closure of about 10,000 units and the plastic industry is staring at job losses of 4.5 lakh people ahead of the Diwali season,” said Jayesh Rambhia, co-chairman, environment committee, All India Plastic Manufacturers Association. “The industry urgently requires clear guidelines on what the short and long-term plan for single-use plastic is.”

There are an estimated 50,000 plastic manufacturing units in the country. The government did not ban single-use plastic bags, small bottles, cups, plates, straws and certain types of sachets on October 2, as had been widely expected. It also hasn’t defined single-use plastic.


“The Centre directed states to take action on October 2 but different policies across states are fragmenting the Indian market, which was unified by GST (goods and services tax),” Rambhia said. “Right now, there’s uncertainty and fear at ground level and if there’s a sweeping ban on single-use plastic without alternatives, the economy could come to a grinding halt.”

Single-use plastic, or disposable material that can be used only once before it is either thrown away or recycled, is used by almost all consumer-facing industries including food processing and food delivery, retailers for packaging and selling finished goods, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

Industry executives said proper waste segregation and management could resolve the problem to a large extent, as in many developed countries.
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“Single-use plastic is part of every industry. Clear guidelines on what is not acceptable and stepping up infrastructure for recycling are the only solutions,” said Bisleri International chairman Ramesh Chauhan.

So far, 18 states have banned plastic bags, and many such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have also banned single-use plastic products including cutlery, plates, cups and straws.

“It will take at least a couple of years to make the transition to alternatives other than single use plastic for packaging,” said Anshul Gupta, cofounder of cloud kitchen startup Box8, which delivers over one million meals a month. “There is no short-term solution and the challenge is to work out alternatives which are cost-effective.”

The company delivers to customers in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune from more than 110 kitchens. Like others, it has begun sourcing packaging made of alternate materials. With low-cost dynamics, food delivery and hyperlocal delivery aggregators constitute the fastest-growing segment of the Rs 4 lakh crore food services sector.
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Lobby groups say lack of clarity and uncertainty are preventing industry from looking for specific solutions.

Vijay Habbu, technical advisor to PET industry associations such as the Packaging Association for Clean Environment (PACE), said trade intermediaries are in a state of flux.
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“For example, small-sized plastic bottles used for water, beverages pharmaceuticals or health drinks need to be exempted as they offer right-portioning and have no viable alternatives. And what about small sachets made from multi-layered packaging which sell everything from shampoo to cookies? The intermediaries supplying these plastics don’t know what to do.”


Estimates suggest that India uses about 14 million tonnes of plastic annually. The All India Plastic Manufacturers’ Association (AIPMA) said in a report that the country’s plastic-processing industry comprises more than 50,000 units with annual revenue at Rs 3.5 lakh crore in FY19. Another report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said India generated 26,000 tonnes per day (TPD) of plastic waste in FY18, of which 60% was recycled, while the rest remained uncollected.
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