To Ban Or Not To Ban

Shrad­dha Phulgirkar re­ports how the Ma­ha­rash­tra govern­ment’s plas­tic ban is af­fect­ing the ap­parel in­dus­try.

Apparel - - Contents July 2018 -

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


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.

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