To Ban Or Not To Ban
Shraddha Phulgirkar reports how the Maharashtra government’s plastic ban is affecting the apparel industry.
Analysing the impact of the Maharashtra government’s plastic ban on the apparel industry
India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. As we’re progressing, the responsibility of coming up with sustainable and green alternatives is steadily falling on our shoulders. India generates about 25,940 tonnes of plastic and more than 97,000 tonnes of solid waste per day, according to the country’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Studies show that just a single straw made of plastic takes over 200 years to decompose. To combat the ever-increasing levels of plastic pollution, recently the Maharashtra government took a bold step of banning plastic. Let’s understand the ban and its consequences on both the retailers and consumers.
On March 23, Devendra Fadnavis’ government banned the manufacture, usage, sale, transport, distribution, wholesale and retail sale and storage,
import of plastic bags with or without handle, and disposable products made out of plastic and thermocol. Citing the environmental risks and harm caused to wild animals from ingestion or entanglement in plastic, the government enforced the ban with immediate effect.
As per the notification, violators of the ban will be fined R5,000 and R10,000 for the first and second-time offence. A third-time offender will have to shell out R25,000 and may also face imprisonment for a period of three months. While the ban has been implemented within the state of Maharashtra, passengers coming to the state from other parts of the country are also expected to maintain caution while disposing plastic at stations.
This ban has sparked off multiple nationwide debates. While some think that this cautious move is going to save the planet, mankind and animals from plastic pollution in the long run, some have also spoken about how it is going to cost over three lakh jobs and a total loss of over R15,000 crores. What it also led to is an undeniable revelation of how deeply plastic had penetrated every possible industry.
In the last few decades, with absolutely no restrictions, plastic has replaced every material there is and has slowly become the backbone of most industries–from the dress you order to the straw you use to sip your juice. At some point or the other in its cycle, from its manufacturing to its consumption, every product or service
THIS BAN HAS SPARKED OFF MULTIPLE NATIONWIDE DEBATES. WHILE SOME THINK THAT THIS CAUTIOUS MOVE IS GOING TO SAVE THE PLANET, MANKIND AND ANIMALS FROM PLASTIC POLLUTION IN THE LONG RUN, SOME HAVE ALSO SPOKEN ABOUT HOW IT IS GOING TO COST OVER THREE LAKH JOBS.
leans on plastic due to the benefits it comes with. The varied benefits plastic offers effortlessly knocks its competition away. It’s light, durable, impermeable, and possesses the ability to take the form we need. Glass and metal are heavier, so they add to the transportation costs of goods, and paper with its conspicuous water consumption has environmental problems of its own.
After the announcement of the ban, all consumers and more importantly, retailers were given a period of three months to dispose of their existing lot of plastic to make way for environment-friendly substitutes.
“At the storefront, we had moved to paper bags long back. Now after the announcement of the ban, we are also exploring other options. With regards to packaging and inter-movement, our vendors have shifted from plastic to PVC based or bio compostable based material,” says Sharad Venkta, MD & CEO of Toonz Retail Pvt. Ltd. which is one of the fastest growing kids retail chain in India catering to apparel for kids.
Plastic usage at the manufacturing stage is excluded from the ban. When asked about stocking apparel using plastic, Rajesh Masand, Vice President, CMAI, said, “The apparel is currently stored in PP bags that are 50 microns thick and recyclable. These bags are both dust- and water-resistant. Since these bags are transparent, it becomes extremely easy to locate the required apparel even if they’ve been in the godown for a longer window.”
Along with being hard on retailers, the ban is also proving to be inconvenient to the consumers. “Instead of plastic, we're now wrapping our clothes in newspapers and handing it over in paper bags that we have ordered since the ban. It's inconvenient for customers, particularly since monsoon has just begun,” says Kahan Vora, Partner of Uberologie, an apparel and accessories store located in Bandra. On asking his views about the ban, Kahan said, “This is a great environmental initiative by the government but I see a significant increase in the operational costs of all retailers in Maharashtra.” Sharad Venkta said, “While it is a welcome move by the government, they have left us with certain
challenges. Substitutes are not readily available. We are facing challenges in terms of packaging our apparel during the movement of goods. Operational issues have increased when things are being packed in a non-transparent material.”
Speaking about the penalty, Sharad said, “The current fine rate is obviously very steep and has been announced keeping in mind the strict execution. On the consumer front, I doubt how many carry such an amount. If executed properly, it shall yield its desired results else it would be just opening a new window for corruption.”
Since the ban execution has coincided with the monsoon in Maharashtra, many retail store owners expressed disappointment about its ill timing. “If the ban was executed post monsoon, it would have put less stress on the business ecosystem,” said Sharad. He added, “The biggest pain point is the packaging of our goods which should withstand the weather and the operational conditions while being transported. Suppliers are taking necessary steps as they have started using boxes, bio compostable material and we have started seeing the effects of the same. With the monsoon setting in, it has become all the more difficult to ensure products reach in their best shape possible.”
While the brick-and-mortar apparel stores are coping with this change, e-commerce firms including Amazon have written to the Internet and Mobile Association of India seeking its help to appeal to the state government for an extension to be able to change their packaging to a recyclable material. The state government is likely to grant an extension of up to three months to comply with the ban, according to IAMAI president Subho Ray. Industry insiders involved in the talks also said that the government is likely to grant e-commerce and retail firms time till August.
While there’s still some disparity between the government and the citizens with respect to the ban, we hope that a few months down the line, this initiative leads to creation of a planet that’s not choking under heaps of plastic.