Retailers, especially food and grocery chains, are clearly unhappy, saying the ban is impractical
Avinash Gokhale, a resident of Dadar in Mumbai, purchases loose milk from the local dairy every morning. “I simply get up every morning and walk to the dairy below my building,” he said of his habit.
But Tuesday morning was different. The man at the counter asked him for a container to put the loose milk he purchased, reminding him that sundry plastic pouches that he used to carry milk can no more be used.
Since Saturday, Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra have been coming to terms with the plastic ban imposed by the state government. This includes all kinds of plastic bags, irrespective of their thickness, that is, plastic cups, straws, glass, plates and spoons.
They also include thermocol glasses as well as thermocol decoration pieces, plastic items used in hotels, restaurants and food joints to parcel food and beverages, among others.
What is not banned is plastic and thermocol used by manufacturing companies, plastic raincoats, plastic bags for storing food grain and plastic packaging for food items such as chips, biscuits and noodles.
Also in this list are plastic and thermocol packaging for medicines and hospital items, plastic pens and milk pouches that are above 50 microns in thickness as well as plastic pouches used in plant nurseries.
But the ban has clearly caught all stake-holders including consumers, retailers, wholesalers and plastic product manufacturers on the wrong foot.
Wholesalers, for instance, are being fined on the spot for using plastic, which they say they can’t do without.
Retailers, especially food and grocery chains, are clearly unhappy, saying the ban is impractical.
“For liquid items what is the alternative we have. When we have to move goods from one market to another, there is no alternative. We do not know what to do,” said Rakesh Biyani, joint managing director at Future Retail.
Neville Noronha, managing director of Avenue Supermarts, which runs the D-Mart chain of stores, said the ban is unfair in commodities such as fresh produce and staples which are sold loose.
“If manufacturers can package their products with plastic, then we should be allowed to package products at the shop floor too,” he said.
The Maharashtra government is said to be considering a proposal to exclude retail packaging of products – plastic pouches used to pack items such as rice, sugar, milk and pulses – after traders raised their voice against it days after the ban.
While Reliance Industries, the country’s largest polymer producer, is creating a platform for recycling, the Plastic Bags Manufacturers Association of India, said the job loss due to the ban runs into nearly 300,000.
At 30 per cent, Maharashtra is among the largest generators of plastic waste in the country.
The Central Pollution Control Board said that the estimated plastic waste in Maharashtra is nearly 469,098 tonnes per annum, with the number of registered plastic units (in the state) being only 71.
It also added that the number of firms into manufacturing and recycling of plastic is just 46 units, implying that there is much work to be done in this space.
Photograph: Mitesh Bhuvad/PTI Photo