Invest In Waste Mgmt | Use Paper-Based Compostable Packs
New Delhi: The government’s appeal to reduce plastic usage has pushed companies ranging from Nestle, McDonald’s, Parle Agro to Amul and Flipkart to search for environment-friendly solutions. Swiss food major Nestle, for instance, has incentivised consumers in Dehradun and Mussoorie by giving them a packet of Maggi for every 10 empty Maggi noodles packets. The company is also trying to solve the challenge of serving hot beverages in 100% paper-based options.
Similarly, the maker of Amul-branded products — Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) — has appointed agencies to pick up multilayer packaging (MLP) packs of ice-cream sticks that are trashed by consumers. “There is a cost involved in doing this and we will be spending the requisite amount. However, this will not be passed on to consumers,” said GCMMF MD R S Sodhi.
Parle Agro, maker of soft drink Frooti, said it will spend over Rs 50 crore in the next three years to implement an end-to-end PET plastic waste management programme. All the recycled plastic will be channelled to textiles and other non-allied industry segments, according to the company. Nadia Chauhan, MD and CMO, Parle Agro, said, “Given our 30% growth rate, our ‘PET sustainability’ investments will most definitely increase every year.”
While Flipkart has applied for a provisional application for patent of recycled paper-based, perforated two-ply corrugated roll for wrapping purpose and apparatus for manufacturing the same, US burger chain McDonald’s has stopped using several single-use plastic items in its outlets.
Packaging, consumer goods lead plastic industry growth
Most companies aim to fully comply with their goals within the five-year deadline (2025) they have set for themselves. However, it looks unrealistic due to supply chain constraints and the lack of viable cost-effective alternatives to plastic in the market. The steep cost of initial ramp-up stage during the rollout of alternative solutions, too, is being borne by these companies.
Kitchenware brand Tupperware India said it will stop using single-use plastic for its product packaging, and will instead use recyclable paper-based compostable packaging material. The company’s expenses are expected to increase by around 7% due to the transition.
“A certain amount of PET bottles may still be recycled as they are in good supply from rag pickers, but ‘multilayer’ packaging that is used in the food-processing sector to increase shelf life is noto
India may do better than some peers in managing waste
riously difficult to recycle. And there aren’t many costeffective options either,” said former Coca-Cola India head Venkatesh Kini, who has co-founded a global online aggregator of startups — Ubuntoo, focused on developing environment-friendly solutions for industries.
Maggi pouches, for instance, fall in the ‘multilayer’ packaging category along with several other products such as shampoo sachets, which account for 70% of all shampoos sold in India. “We have already started our journey towards transition to mono-material packaging and have initiated production for two of our products — Maggi noodles and Munch. For Maggi packaging, in compliance with the plastic waste management rules, we are currently managing it by either using it as fuel by sending it to cement kilns or by sending it as waste to energy plants,” said a Nestle India spokesperson.
Other large consumer goods companies such as HUL, PepsiCo and ITC, which use multilayer packaging, aim to use 100% of packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable within five to 10 years. They have currently launched extensive waste management programmes across the country to collect and recycle different forms of plastic waste. Flipkart claims to have already reduced plastic application by 25% through initiatives in its packaging value chain. The largest public sector lender, State Bank of India, with 22,010 branches (as of March 31, 2019) has proposed to do away with the use of plastic folders and single-use plastic bottles with eco-friendly substitutes across all offices.
While India’s per capita consumption of plastic of 11kg per year is low compared to 109kg for markets such as the US, the problem lies with an inadequate waste management system that sends most plastic into waterways and landfills and eventually into the human food chain. Last week, the government clarified that there is no ban on single-use plastic, and the ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ campaign launched by PM Modi is about creating awareness and a people’s movement to curb its use.