Interview with Plastindia Foundation President Jigish Doshi

  1. Plastindia-Foundation-President-Jigish DoshiWhat are your views on the ban on Single-Use plastic (SUP)?

We support the intention and the vision of the government behind banning SUP. However, banning single-use plastic is not the solution. Ninety-nine percent of plastics are recyclable. The problem is that the ragpickers don’t have the technology or aren’t incentivized enough to collect small plastic waste like straws etc. Therefore, the requirement of the hour is a waste management solution and recycling technology that ensures proper collection and recycling of plastic waste. The ragpickers who play a key role during this process should even be given proper incentives.

Thousands of business units and their employees and families depend on the industry for their livelihood. The ban on Single-Use Plastics, particularly for those business units, which manufactures single/standalone product, will have an adverse impact on the business units and the livelihood of the people.

  1. The plastic industry in India provides employment to lakhs of people, however, the move will harm those people. Can India afford this right now?

The impact of the plastic ban may result in a very loss of up to Rs 15,000 crore for the plastic industry, and nearly 3 lakh people might lose their job, likelihood is there’s a far likely needed boost for other alternative sectors. Therefore, the government should work with the industry to offer incentives and financial support to business units impacted by the ban.

The plastic industry is still recovering from the impact of the ban. A ban at this point will further impair the industry.

  1. How is a single-use plastic ban very challenging for MSMEs to bear unexpected expenses?

The plastic industry is an important sector in India, isn’t only a labour intensive but also involves a huge cost (CAPEX) in terms of plant & machinery, and employment opportunities and contributes significantly to the nation’s exchequer. This Sector comprises MSMEs and small manufacturing units. The overall view of the Plastic Industry is that these business units manufacturing single/standalone product which falls under the banned category will face an unprecedented situation in terms of economic and fiscal issues. Hence, these manufacturers need to be protected by the Government by extending support in terms of the policy as well as fiscal incentives. One of the policy guidelines possibly is to extend some more time to the manufacturing units to enable them to comply with the order complemented with financial support from the government across the country.    

  1. How can we safeguard the economic interests of MSMEs or small businesses in this situation?

Most MSMEs manufacturing products banned under SUP with a turnover of around Rs 1 to Rs 5 crore would have already invested approximately Rs 39,000 crore in their units.  The authorities should consider measures to rehabilitate these units by facilitating their transition to other businesses. For this, the ban should be implemented constructively and sustainably, keeping the interests of diverse stakeholders in mind. To safeguard the economic interests of MSMEs, a transparent roadmap is required that facilitates a smooth transition of those entities to allied industries. Additionally, it’s important to spot eco-friendly alternatives to SUPs. Though the govt has recommended using biodegradable plastics, manufacturers say this can be unviable for them and expensive for end-users as biodegradables are largely imported.

Various industry bodies have voiced serious concerns over the financial implications of the ban and therefore the resulting job losses. According to industry estimates around 88,000 units, manufacturing SUPs could go bankrupt. Besides the workers employed here, these units contribute to exports valued at Rs 25,000 crore. Furthermore, the SUP industry is estimated to own an annual turnover exceeding Rs 60,000 crore.

Since banks and other lenders have provided loans to thousands of SUP units, their closure will cause an increase in NPAs (non-performing assets). The economic ramifications also are inflated by the price of replacements. Disposable plastic cups used at tea stalls cost just 5 paise while its replacement, a clay kulhad, is priced at Re 1. Considering the value differentials, most replacements are slated to inflate costs by 100 percent to 300 percent.

Eventually, the upper costs would be borne by consumers, stoking inflationary pressures. Going by the immense employment and entrepreneurial opportunities that MSMEs offer, it will be in the interests of everyone that these units are rehabilitated in other verticals.

  1. What are the steps that the government needs to take to make a balance?

The industry and therefore society will need viable alternatives to Single-Use Plastics products. While for Plastics Carry Bags, it’s only a matter of accelerating the thickness to 120 microns but finding alternatives for plastic plates and cutleries is a challenge unless the thickness of those items is increased to make them reusable/ recyclable. The industry is already working towards finding alternatives for Thermocol (Polystyrene) based products. To attain the specified objective, we will have to make a big investment in R&D and innovative technology to develop alternative products which can take it slow. The industry is already working in this direction. While we support the govt, imposing a ban on single-use plastics isn’t the sole solution. The govt, the industry, and the public have to work together to search out alternatives. Waste management solutions and recycling technologies have to be put in place. Only then can we combat pollution and protect the environment

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