New Delhi: The news that the government has no plan to ban single-use plastic items immediately was welcomed by the beverage manufacturers as confusion surrounding the proposed ban had impacted demand of plastic goods over the last two months, they said.
“Yes, this is a relief for beverage companies in India," said Ramesh Chauhan, chairman, Bisleri International, a packaged water company. Shiroy Mehta, director at bottled water brand Aava, said the lack of clarity around what constitutes single-use plastic had stagnated the plastic ecosystem over the last two months. “At least now we have some clarity that there is no legal ban, just yet," he told Mint. Demand for plastic products could pick up ahead of the festive season, he said.
In his speech on 15 August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the nation had urged Indian households to shun single-use plastic items causing confusion among companies and industry bodies that feared an impending ban on items such as carry bags, straws, stirrers, disposable cutlery, small beverage bottles (less than 200ml), among other products. But the government clarified that it had not announced a blanket ban on single-use plastic products.
Late on Tuesday, the government’s Swachh Bharat twitter handle posted: “The Swachhata Hi Seva campaign launched by the Hon'ble PM on 11th September 2019 is not about banning single use plastic but creating awareness and a people's movement to curb its use." The government, however, plans to impose stricter rules to ensure that manufacturers and brands responsibly dispose of and recycle plastic waste.
Meanwhile, companies across packaged consumer goods, to restaurant chains and hotels had already started taking measures to eliminate single use plastic from their businesses. They also stepped up recycling and waste collection measures to effectively dispose off plastic bottles. But a lack of clarity around what items constitute single use plastic and those that could see a ban had raised concerns among manufacturers, especially bottled water and beverages that largely rely on plastic for packaging. They feared business and job losses if the ban was to come into force.
In fact, beverage makers that use PET bottles to sell water and aerated drinks have made several representations to government bodies over the last few weeks suggesting that PET bottles used in India are over 90% recycled. Additionally, they said that imposing a ban on small-sized bottles would lead to a jump in prices of packaged beverages as finding suitable alternatives to plastic is not cost effective.
However, Aava's Mehta feels that the sentiment around plastic has shifted in the last two months and could have a long-term impact on plastic demand. In the last few weeks a few hotels, restaurants, and airlines have announced plans to discontinue use of small packaged bottled water instead replacing plastic bottles with glass ones. Mehta has plans to roll out Aava branded glass bottles for drinking water over the next few days. He expects more institutional buyers of bottled water could switch to glass bottles.
Bisleri’s Chauhan too added that concerns around plastic usage had slowed the growth of the bottled water industry. “Plastic ban had an effect on the bottled water industry; going forward demand could be impacted as hotels and restaurants now want to use glass bottle," he said.
Chauhan is waiting to see if the government's plans to shelve the ban will help bring sales back on track.