Manufacturers of small packaged fruit juices and dairy products have sought an extension of the July 1 deadline, for implementing the ban on plastic straws and said imported paper straws are expected to increase their input cost but unlikely to meet the industry’s requirement.
Arguing that there is no viable alternative at present, industry body Action Alliance for Recycling Beverage Cartons (AARC) and Home-grown FMCG major Dabur India said there is a need to extend the deadline by at least two-three years for a smooth transition. The government’s ban on single-use plastics, to be effective from July 1, will also impact the plastic straws that are packaged with small juice and milk beverage packs sold by food companies.
“We would urge the government to extend the implementation date of the ban till proper infrastructure for producing paper straws locally is developed,” Dabur India CEO Mohit Malhotra told PTI. Expressing similar views, AARC said the ban is going to have a big impact as there are no alternatives at the moment. “The industry has been working on biodegradable PLA straws as alternatives but these are still 9-12 months away from validation. The industry is also looking to import paper straws, whatever could be imported, though there is not enough availability globally,” said AARC CEO Praveen Agarwal.
According to him, production and sales will stop to a large extent if the government does not extend the deadline for the industry, which is estimated to be around Rs 6,000 crore. Also globally, there are limited manufacturers of straw line machines, and they have long waiting periods, he added. “So despite the industry wanting to fast-track, it will take some time,” said Agarwal, adding, “we have spoken to the government to give us transition time. We need at least two to three years for every plastic straw to be replaced by either bio-compostable or paper straws.”
Malhotra of Dabur said importing paper straws will also have cost implications on companies, which will lead to loss of revenue to the government exchequer, and this runs contrary to the spirit of the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. When reached out for comments, the leading milk supplier in NCR Mother Dairy said it is currently assessing the situation.
“We foresee initial hiccups in implementation and execution, and are working out on alternatives for a smoother transition to ensure business continuity while adhering to the norms,” said a Mother Dairy Spokesperson. Agarwal said the industry supports the government’s initiative, but “there could have been a difference made between loose straws and the integrated ones that come with packaging, as the industry collects and recycles more than 50 per cent of cartons and straws already and is committed to take it to 70 per cent this year”.
Dairy cooperative GCMMF, which markets products under the Amul brand, on Monday said alternatives to plastic straws are 3-4 times costlier and not effective, adding that such straws do not even account for 0.1 per cent of total plastic consumption. GCMMF managing director R S Sodhi suggested adopting extended producer responsibility for using straws with milk beverage packs. “Straws are not even 0.1 per cent of total plastic consumption. The alternatives are at least 3-4 times costlier and not as effective as straw. We are ready to adopt Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for plastic straw,” said Sodhi.
EPR guidelines for plastic packaging, which were notified by the environment ministry this February, provide a framework to strengthen the circular economy. According to the new rules, the producers, importers and brand-owners shall have to provide the details of recycling certificates only from registered recyclers along with the details of quantity sent for end-of-life disposal by June 30, of next financial year, while filing annual returns on the online portal of the Central Pollution Control Board.