Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to phase out single-use plastic has received an overwhelming response from various sections of society but a sense of ambiguity prevails for around 45 lakh people employed in the plastic industry with no immediate alternative solution available so far.
The plastic manufacturing industry associations feel that before the centre decides to ban few single-use plastic items, they should be given time to finish products already manufactured as a sudden ban means big losses for the sector.
The government has asked the manufacturers to suggest alternatives but they feel that it requires time and investment to do Research and Development (R&D). As of now, many are clueless about alternative businesses as huge investments have been done in machinery and other ancillary items.
Small scale plastic manufactures have already brought down their daily productions keeping in mind the centre’s plan to ban small items like straw, plates and cups. Those employed in the manufacturing units are worried for their jobs keeping in mind declining production since August 15, when the PM first spoke about making the country free from single-use plastic.
According to Hiten Bada, former president of All India Plastic Manufacturers’ Association who now represents the Western India region, of around 8,000 plastic manufacturing units in the state, around 1,400 units felt the brunt of the ban on single-use plastic.
Many lost their product range while some were closed down by the administration and this impacted employment of around 80,000 people. The industry loss is pegged to be around Rs 700 crore, he says.
The industry body identified 60 hubs across the nation where plastic recycling is carried out in a big way. Dharavi in Mumbai, Malegaon and Dhule are some of these hubs in Maharashtra. Most of this business though is in the non-organised sector. Bringing them to the organised sector before banning plastic would help in recycling more.
Bharat Bharara, plastic trader from Old Delhi’s Sadar Bazaar said that his sales had fallen down by 50% in last three-four months and the profession which he inherited from his ancestors of selling plastic would come to an end.
“We are selling plastic since 1962. This decision is not practical. They have made single-use plastic ban but technically all plastic is single-use. There is no clarification from government and we are continuing sale right now. However, we have stopped using the carry bags,” he said and added that he had to cut his salesmen by half post the affect on the business due to this ban.
He says that there is no point going against the government but they must understand and think about us.
“Some shopkeepers are on rent, they can’t just destroy our material.”
“We should at least be given time to finish our goods first. Eventually, we will have to look for something else as a business option,” Bharat Bharara added.
West Bengal’s plastic industry is pegged at Rs 15,000 crore involving more than 3,500 units and most of them are in the business of producing single-use items like bottles, glass, plate and spoon.
West Bengal generates nearly 8,000 tonnes of plastic for producing single-use items and a little over 6,500 tonnes remain uncollected.
The manufacturers are yet to decide what will be the character of their next business venture.
“I invested nearly Rs 2 crore to set up a unit seven years ago to manufacture plastic products which include single-use items as well. If the product is banned, I will face a tough time and will have to depend on other non-disposable items. To cope-up with the situation, I will have to plan to shift to making similar items using paper and thermocol as raw material,’’ said Jagadesh Adhkary of Barasat in North 24-Parganas district.