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PACKAGING

Maharashtra govt’s plastic ban triggers off debate, termed unrealistic
Saturday, 07 April, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi and Shraddha Joshi, Mu
The blanket ban imposed by the Government of Maharashtra on the use of all kinds of plastic in the state has triggered off a massive debate over the implication of the order. The industry depending on plastic has termed the ban as impractical and unrealistic, but the growing quantity of plastic waste in the country has heated the debate about the search for newer ways of packaging, which also pushed the government towards the decision.

The All India Plastic Manufacturers’ Association (AIPMA) opposed the notification about the ban on various plastic products in Maharashtra.

“The Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products Notification, 2018, is impractical and unrealistic, and is not the solution for the underlying issue of pollution,” said the apex body of plastic makers in a statement.

AIPMA’s Hiten Bheda stated that the plastic ban imposed by the Maharashtra government had impacted various sectors, including the food processing and flexible packaging sectors.

“It will lead to comprising in food security and food safety. The government must have a holistic approach and should have a waste management programme,” he added.

“We have sent our representation to the government, and they told us that a committee is being made to further look into the matter. However, all these were verbal. Once the old stock starts getting over, there are chances that there will be a decline in the food parcel delivery business and an increase in the cost of food due to the use of other material for food packaging,” Bheda said.

The association said that the ban has drastically affected the plastic industry. The notification has affected manufacturers, traders, distributors, retailers and stakeholders of the plastic industry and has resulted in unemployment on a large scale.

Charging that the decision would be detrimental to the state’s economy, the association said that there is no alternative to plastic as yet, and the association will soon be taking a legal stand against this unjust notification.

The association raised questions of separate legislations by the state government in the wake of the already-existing Central regulations, the Plastics Waste Management Rules.

“Multiple regulations around same challenge may send potentially-conflicting messages and, more importantly, hamper THE ease of doing business,” the statement released by the association said.

Expressing his view on the plastic ban, Piruz Khambatta, chairman, western region, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said, “The Maharashtra government’s decision to put the ban on plastic does not seem logical. No other state in India has imposed such a stringent law.”

“We had put forward a recommendation to the government to give proper extended time to abide with the decision. There are a few sectors where in the use of plastic cannot be avoided. Thus, the government should adopt holistic approach towards the issue,” he added.

The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), also stated that post the government’s decision to implement the ban on plastic, the hotel and restaurant industry in the state has once again come under duress to comply with a ban that has come into immediate effect.

“With the need to do away with all kinds of plastic utilities which have been in use for over two decades, hotels and restaurants are in a fix over identifying and adopting a suitable replacement,” the association stated.

While HRAWI has appreciated the state government’s intention to save the environment from the perils of plastic waste, it has also pointed out certain practical considerations that may have escaped the attention of the state authorities before introducing the ban.

“In a letter to the additional chief secretary, environment, Government of Maharashtra, the association has highlighted the immediate repercussions to the industry and has requested that the government reconsider extending the timelines,” stated HRAWI.

Through a notification, the Government of Maharashtra’s environment department stated that the ban was applicable across the state for manufacture, usage, transport, distribution, wholesale and retail sale and storage, import of plastic bags with handle and without handle, and disposable products manufactured from plastic and thermocol (polystyrene) such as single-use disposable dishes, cups, plates, glasses, forks, bowls, containers, disposable dishes/bowls used for packaging food in hotels, spoons, straws, non-woven polypropylene bags, cups/pouches to store liquid, packaging with plastic to wrap or store the products, packaging of food items and food grain material, etc. 

However, the order has stated, “The use, sale, storage and manufacture of PET or PETE bottles made of high-quality food-grade virgin Bisphenol-A free material having liquid holding capacity not less than 0.5 litre and printed on it with a pre-defined buyback price, shall be allowed, subject to compliance.”  

Meanwhile, waste plastic management is a big challenge with growing environmental concerns. And keeping this in mind, the Government of Maharashtra also prescribed a buyback programme under the regulations.

The notification stated that PET or PETE bottle manufacturers, producers, sellers and traders under extended producers’ and sellers’/traders’ responsibility will develop a buyback depository mechanism with a pre-defined buyback price printed specifically on such PET or PETE bottles and also set up collection and recycling units of adequate capacity and number to collect and recycle such PET or PETE bottles within three months from the date of publication of this notification.

Traders/sellers will buy back such used PET/PETE bottles with pre-defined buyback price printed on such bottles. PET/PETE bottles having liquid holding capacity of one litre or more and of 0.5 litre will be printed on the body of the bottle with pre-defined buyback price of Re 1 and Rs 2, respectively. However, there will be a ban on usage, purchase, sale, distribution and storage of PET/PETE bottles having a liquid holding capacity less than 0.5 litre in the state.

Meanwhile, on extended producer responsibility (EPR), a national level framework is being proposed by the industry and is under the active consideration of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

“It is better to wait for that to be released before developing anything specific for Maharashtra as a state. The EPR model proposed in the Maharashtra notification takes away the primary responsibility of the municipal, local urban bodies and village panchayats to administer the task of waste collection, segregation and disposal. The established models of EPR are in partnership with the industry, but the primary responsibility remains with the government,” said AIPMA.

In 2016, the Centre had notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, in suppression of the earlier Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, in which the minimum thickness of plastic carry bags was increased from 40 microns to 50 microns. Besides, it talked about introducing a system to collect back plastic waste by the producers/brand owners, as per the extended producers’ responsibility.

However, it added that an eco-friendly product, which is a complete substitute of the plastic in all uses, has not been found till date. In the absence of a suitable alternative, it is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country. The real challenge is to improve plastic waste management systems.
 
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