Ban on plastic still ambiguous, say bulk users and manufacturers

Nagpur: Confusion prevails among restaurant owners, outdoor caterers and food vendors over use of plastic products for food packaging. The confusion stems from the fact that the state government has banned manufacturing, sale, usage, transport, storage and handling of plastic and thermocol products.
The ban which has been effective since March 23 covers products made from plastic and thermocal (polystyrene) like disposable dish or bowl, plates, glasses, cutlery, cups, containers, straw, non-woven polypropene bags, and pouches.
Terming plastic as the cheapest solution for his industry, Sushil Agarwal, who owns fast food and snack behemoth Haldiram’s, says, “We are looking for substitutes like paper plates and cups or those made from dry leaves. But banning plastic is not the way. The real solution lies in recycling.”
Citing examples of other countries Agarwal says, “They have a culture of recycling. In India, it can be done under the Swach Bharat mission for which government is levying a cess.”
He says that products like ready-to-eat thaali or the snacks sold from his outlets come under primary packaging and, hence, they may be exempted from the ban. “But we are still looking for more clarity on this,” he adds.
With supplies of plastic bags and containers dwindling, most vendors have a problem of packaging staring at them. “We don’t see any option in sight. Dry snack items can be put in a paper bag but I have nothing to pack chutneys and dips,” says Nikesh Katkoria of Bhavnagari, in Gokulpeth.
“Even the plastic lamination pouches in which we fill farsaan and namkeen have been banned. As of now, all we can do is sell it loose and pack it for the customer in a paper bag,” says Katkoria.
Many outdoor caterers and restaurant owners are holding huge stocks of plastic bags and containers. “We have to exhaust them first or request the manufacturer to take it back as I have nearly Rs5 lakh worth of this stuff with me,” says Narendra Jog, pioneer of dial for food service.
“Cloth bags can replace plastic carry bag. But for food items, I will have to bring back casseroles or steel containers with which I had started my services,” says Jog, adding, “But they are not durable, and so will add to my cost.”

Food parcels form bulk of the business at Gayatri Bhojnalay. “We have put up a board outside our mess asking customers to bring their own tiffin carriers,” says owner Ajay Joshi. “There seems to be no option in sight. So far, we were spending Rs17 on packing a complete thaali using laminated pouches. No other option can be this cheap,” he says.
Anticipating these troubles, Tarwinder Singh, who runs Barbecue in Sadar, says that he had reduced the orders for plastic containers once the news of a possible ban came out in January. “I am exploring the possibility of using bags made of corn granules which are bio-degradable,” he says.
Though the entire plastic manufacturing industry agrees that use of plastic should be restricted, they need time to implement the ban, says Suresh Rathi, vice-president of Vidarbha Industries Association.
“Our delegation met the chief minister on Monday to ask for some time. Though we are all supporting this ban, some time has to be given to sort out finances and find alternate employment for those engaged in this industry,” he adds.


Source : timesofindia


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