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Pollution

Plastic bans in India expand to 18 states

Business leaders concerned about effect on plastics industry, businesses that use plastic products

by K. V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
April 17, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 17

LN-indiabeach.jpg
Credit: Shutterstock
Trash litters Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai.

India’s western state of Maharashtra has joined 17 other states to ban the manufacture, use, storage, distribution, sale, import and transportation of many plastic goods and materials. The prohibition covers a slew of items including polyethylene bags, polyethylene terephthalate bottles, polystyrene products, and various plastic plates, cups, spoons and forks.

Maharashtra is home to Mumbai and is India’s second-most populous state. In total, India generates 15,000 metric tons of plastic waste daily, and only 60% is collected as waste or for recycling—the remainder is littered, according to India’s Central Pollution Control Board.

Environmental groups have welcomed the plastics bans. But stakeholders such as the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (MACCIA), All India Plastic Manufacturers Association (AIPMA), and the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India say the bans adversely affect the plastics industry as well as business that use plastic products.

The Maharashtra ban has derailed production, packaging, and supply schedules of grains, baked goods, and clothing industries, says MACCIA vice president Lalit Gandhi. “Many units are on the verge of closure in the absence of basic packaging material,” he told reporters in Mumbai on April 3. “We fear that nearly 300,000 people employed may become jobless.”

The ban could turn large capital investments into nonperforming assets, AIPMA president Hiten Bheda says in a statement. Additionally, businesses that rely on plastic packaging may not have technologically feasible or economically viable alternatives, he says.

India’s plastics industry employs about 4 million people, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation, a government agency.

Shortly after the Maharashtra ban was announced on March 23, the Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturer’s Association filed a lawsuit challenging the ban. The state government responded to the suit saying that plastic waste is a serious environmental hazard that affects the health of humans and animals. In an interim ruling, the court declined to halt implementation of the ban but gave plastics manufacturers, distributors, and retailers three months to dispose of existing stock of banned items. The court is expected to issue a final ruling on June 8.

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