Plastic ban: Lakhs of jobs at risk, say Mumbai manufacturers

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 05, 2018 14:23 hrs
plastic bags

Mumbai: The ban on sale of plastic bags by the Devendra Fadanvis government in Maharashtra is fast ​becoming one that has left users and the producers fuming. Although the move was ​announced with the noble intention of reducing the plastic ​waste​ ​in the Financial​​ Capital of the country, th​ose​​ ​implementing the ban have unleashed more chaos than solution​s​.

The state government had banned plastic of all forms from March 18, the day of ​​Gudi Padwa​​. ​But within 10 days of ​t​he ​start of the ​program​me​, it rolled back a ban on plastic bottles after a promise from ​the ​Plastic Bottles Manufacturers Association that a proper buyback mechanism for smaller bottles w​ill​ be put in place. The association also agreed that it would set​ ​up 1000 bottle crushers across the state.

On Wednesday, an association in Maharashtra filed a petition against the Maharashtra Government's ban on plastic below 50 microns. The Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers association, a Pune​-​based petitioner, argued that 56000 people will be rendered jobless by the ban. Ravi Jaishnani, the association's President​,​ was quoted as saying that the plastic industry in Maharashtra employed close to 200000 ​ people ​across various districts​ and their livelihoods were at stake​.

The Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers association is not the first one to claim ​a ​loss of jobs. Another industry source suggests that close to 300000 jobs are at risk.

The Mahalaxmi Griha Udyog that produces the famous Lijjat Papad too had complained that a ban on plastic ​will​ take a toll ​when it came to​ maintaining ​the quality of its​ product.

Industry insiders have said that the loss in jobs from the ban ​will​ impact GDP, and also increase the NPAs ​in ​the plastic sector. How job losses ​will end up having such an impact ​in a​ largely​ unorganised sector​ that is labour intensive is ​quite another matter. ​Also, there are indeed newer avenues opening up for these manufacturers.

​Organisations and associations ​making these claims of job losses ​seem to ​miss the ​opportunities the ban has created. ​

​For instance the ban has opened up a potential ​surge in demand for paper and cloth bags. Besides, there are newer opportunities in scaling up the business from polythene bags to manufacturing of moulds, chairs, other packaging materials in the non​-50 micron category.

​​Customers and small​-​time merchants ​too haven't taken kindly to the decision. ​While the ban does not cover milk pouches and medicines, retailers selling groceries, food grains, vegetables and fruits have had a difficult time ​with their​ customers. Municipal officials have been authorised to impose fines ranging from Rs 5000 to Rs 25000, besides confiscating goods put up on sale by shopkeepers and hawkers​ who use these plastic bags​.

​Retailers from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai (twin district) complain that claiming their confiscated goods a​nd also paying​ fines ​i​s both tedious and financially unviable​.​ ​H​ence they ​a​re left with no option but ​to​ turn away many customers who ask for a plastic bag. Customers​,​ ​meanwhile, complain​ ​of the lack of convenience, and end up asking if a plastic ban ma​kes​ any sense.

A similar ban was enforced by civic officials after the July 2006 flash floods in Mumbai. Back then, the clogging of Mithi river owing to plastic resulted in civic officials coming up with a ban. The ban did not stick for long, but plastic certainly has.

India's metropolitan cities are not new to Garbage. This image from Delhi, where a similar ban has been in existence since October 2017.

Customers and plastic manufacturers have ​termed​ the current ban discriminatory. While plastic under 50 microns has been banned, the ones used in packaging of Gutka, Supari, Shampoo Sachets, and even snacks ​can still be used. Normal plastic bags, according to reports could be recycled, but the ones made ​using​ multi-layers of plastic w​ere​ ​not recycl​able​.

​When it comes to solutions, paper bags have been cited as equally damaging​, if not more so,​ ​at least ​by a British research paper. The paper published in 2011 suggests that single-use paper bags contributed to global warming. So, using a a paper bag does not make you an environment savvy person, unless you use a paper bag multiple times. The study adds, a paper bag must be used four or more times to reduce the global warming to lesser than conventional plastic bags.​​

A handful of interesting tweets:

More from Sify: