Employees of the plastic industry affected by ban

Neha Basudkar
Sunday, 24 March 2019

Last year, the State government’s plastic ban stood out as a shining example in India’s efforts to align with the environmental priorities. Maharashtra became the 18th state in the country to impose a strict plastic and thermocol ban

Last year, the State government’s plastic ban stood out as a shining example in India’s efforts to align with the environmental priorities. Maharashtra became the 18th state in the country to impose a strict plastic and thermocol ban. The State had banned the use of plastic (including plastic bags, containers, sheet etc) effective March 23, 2018. However, several employees who were connected directly or indirectly were badly affected by the ban. 

Ravi Jashnani, President of Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers’ Association (MPMA), said, “The plastic ban announced by the Maharashtra government was a sudden change for all of us and it had hit us very badly. It resulted in a loss of Rs 15,000 crore and close to 20 lakh persons directly or indirectly dependent on manufacturing and packaging industry lost their jobs.”

Along with the plastic industry, the thermocol industry too was badly hit. Harish Jalan, President of Thermocol Sajavat Sanghatana, said, “After banning thermocol along with the plastic, the thermocol associations from all over the states had requested the State government to relax the prohibition at least for the Ganesh festival, as 80 per cent of makhars and other decorative materials were ready. But on July 13, 2018, the Bombay High Court imposed a complete ban on thermocol.”

Among the worst-hit were the biggest plastic recycling units, which were in Malegaon. Mukesh Jhunjhunwala, President of Recycling Plastic Manufacturing Association of Malegaon, said, ”There were more than 140 recycling units in Malegaon and around 60- 80,000 labourers used to work in these units. After the blanket ban on plastic, many had to shut their units as plastic was not reaching their units to recycle and they were not able to make money out of it.”

Jhunjhunwala further, said, “After a blanket ban was announced by the State government, nearly 30 to 40 recycling units in Malegaon were forcibly closed because they did not have enough and desired material to recycle. They remain shut until now. And from the total labourers working earlier in these units, more than half of the labourers have returned to their hometown or have found jobs in other states.”

Plastic exempted from ban

  • Plastic bag or plastic used for packaging of medicine are exempted from this ban.
  • Only compostable plastic bags or material used for plant nurseries, horticulture, agriculture, handling solid waste were exempted.
  • Plastic and plastic bags for export purpose only, in the Special Economic Zone and export-oriented units.
  • Plastic used for handling of solid waste (for example garbage used at homes).
  • Plastic cover or plastic to wrap material used at the manufacturing stage or is an integral part of manufacturing.
  • Food grade virgin plastic bags not less than 50-micron thickness used for packaging of milk.

Plastics Banned

  • All kinds of plastic bags (with and without handle), garbage bags.
  • All one-time use disposable items made up of plastic and thermocol, such as cutlery, plates and bowls.
  • Plastic sheets to wrap or store products and plastic pouches to store liquid.
  • Non-woven polypropylene bags. (a cross between paper and cloth bag)
  • Disposable plastic containers used for takeaway.
  • PET bottles (containing soft drinks, mineral water, etc) and with a carrying capacity of fewer than 500 ml.

Maharashtra is 18th state to ban plastic
Sameer Joshi, the member of CM’s Plastic Task Force and National Environment Committee and secretary of Indian Plastic Institute, said, “On June 23, 2018, India’s second most populous state Maharashtra, became the 18th state to ban plastic.”

Plastic manufacturers shifted their business to other states 
According to Nikhil Rathi, secretary of the Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers Association, due to prohibition and closure of plastic units, most of the plastic manufacturers shifted their business and the whole infrastructure to other states of the country. There are more than 3,000 plastic manufacturing units in the State, and now more than 50 per cent of the total manufacturing industries have shifted to other states i.e. Gujarat, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Manufacturers change business due to ban
Ravi Jashnani, President of Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturing Association, said, “Since the ambiguity over EPR and related confusion over plastic, which has not been resolved yet, most of the plastic manufacturers have shifted their businesses from producing plastic bags to compostable bags. The same machinery of making plastic can be used to produce compostable bags.”

Plastic Ban Survey
A study was conducted by city-based eCoexist in collaboration with Oikos and Ecological Society on ‘How effective has been the ban? Do people know about it? Are consumers and shopkeepers adhering to it? Do they agree with it in principle? Do they understand the need for the ban? Do bans like this make a difference on the ground?’

The answers were 
98 % of the shops are aware of the ban
82 % think it’s a good idea
61 % shops have stopped giving out plastic carry bags
61  % still face demand from consumers to give them a bag

From those that have stopped giving out plastic bags
40% shops have switched to paper bags
18 % shops have switched to cloth bags
11% are not giving out any alternatives
56% stores have not faced an official check

53% of the shopkeepers do not know that non-woven material is actually plastic.
98% said that they knew about the ban 
82% of the people thinks it’s a good idea.
77% of the shops are not charging for the alternatives they provide

Around 40% of paper bags are used as alternatives, 18% of cloth bags are also used as alternatives and 11% of people do not use alternatives.

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