Come October 2 and single-use plastic will be banned. That is what media reports have been hammering over the past few days. This is a follow-up action to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated in June last year – India would eliminate single-use plastic by 2022. However, corporate leaders and experts are of the opinion that a blanket ban will not yield any positive result as the problems lie in waste segregation, recycling and management. Especially, food and beverage and fast moving consumer goods sectors have a major share in contributing to this crisis since major chunks of products that are harming our planet come from companies engaged in these two industries. But is banning an ultimate solution?
What is Single-Use Plastic?
There is no specific definition of single-use plastic. However, in general terms any plastic or plastic material that is used for once and which is not recyclable is considered to be single-use plastic. For example, water or beverage bottles, straws, containers, decorative materials, and carry-bags.
Impact on Industries
Chips and confectionary items account for the largest share of 19% to plastic waste in India, followed by 12% of bottle caps and lids, 10% of PET bottles, and 8% each of packaging and garbage materials. Companies like Unilever and Nestle have announced that they will soon move to single-polymer and reusable packaging which would be recyclable by 2025. Apparently, the multilayered packaging that is being used by companies to pack snacks, chips, biscuits and chocolates cannot be substituted with any other packaging material and hence various companies are gearing up to shift to single-polymer packaging.
Commenting on this development, Raw Pressery CEO Anuj Rakyan says, “In keeping with our brand’s philosophy of ‘all good and no bad’, our company has consciously considered environmental impact as part of our larger strategy. Also, in a bid to change the corporate culture, we have recycled waste plastic at Raw Pressery from the very beginning. We have 100% plastic neutral certification, but of course there is always space to do more.” He further adds, “Due to the nature of the high water pressure processing (HPP) technology used for preserving juice, glass was not an option for us, and so these realities made us think hard for a sustainable solution. We want to set an example in the industry to showcase that alternative waste management is possible.”
While the hospitality industry depends a lot on products made of single-use plastics, some of the players are now shifting to alternatives in the wake of the hazards it spreads in the environment. Nithil Baskar, Associate Director-Food and Beverage, Grand Hyatt Goa, says “We have eliminated plastic straws and stirrers with paper and metal materials. Also, plastic water bottles have been replaced with water dispensers and these are placed at every corner in the banquet spaces of the hotel. We are also providing glass bottles. At our restaurants, the plastic containers have been replaced with bio-degradable containers.”
Nikhil Kapur, founder of Atmantan Wellness Center, echoes a similar sentiment. “We are providing steel bottles as an option for drinking water in the guest rooms to avoid plastic bottles. The discussion of implementing glass bottles is underway. We also use biodegradable garbage bags instead of regular plastic garbage bags. We do not provide plastic straws and spoons; instead we are providing bamboo and wooden straws,” he says. In conclusion it may be said that while the ban is welcome in order to move towards environment protection, those engaged in sectors where plastic packaging is necessary as of now obviously need some time to find suitable alternatives.