Havoc in the single-use plastic (SUP) industry ahead of SUP ban
As per Indian government guidelines, various single-use plastic items are being banned to manufacture, import, stock and sell across India from July 1, 2022. After October 2, 2019 SUP ban fiasco, the government announced to bring restrictions and regulations on SUP items in a phased manner starting from 2022, to give plastic industries enough time to find alternatives and plan their production accordingly. Though the plastic industry creates panic and resists the SUP ban.
Ahead of the SUP ban, the industry is trying all the alternatives available in the market, getting ready to withstand their business and coping with the government guidelines. They are taking trials with compostable materials and keeping the samples ready to come up in the market as soon as the ban gets implemented. They are also clearing their stock of plastic items.
At the same time, the industry is confused that how strictly it will get implemented. As of now, less than 75 microns carry bags are banned. But, the implementation is not strict. So, one will find 20-25 micron bags on every street. Moreover, the industry is also hoping that the ban will get delayed or implemented later on after the state elections. In addition, the implementation might not be strict, just like carry bags. Everyone associated with it is confused and does not know how the government would actually react from July 2022.
On the other hand, the bioplastic industry is eagerly waiting for it and wants to see a boom in the bioplastics market. Same time, they are also waiting for investing further to see how the ban gets implemented. Because they have already witnessed a setback in October 2019 by investing ahead of the ban. The bioplastic industry has already invested a lot in a few years and developed new products and materials by innovations. So, they need to recover their investment and also make a profit out of it.
At this time, many companies are also selling oxo-degradable materials by saying that this will make plastic material biodegradable/compostable. But, this is wrong and there is no Indian government guideline or certifications for oxo-degradable material. Plastic industrialists are also becoming victims of this trap and started using it because it is very cheap compared to compostable plastic material. It only requires adding a few percentages of material with any conventional plastic. Actually, it only fragments plastic products into smaller and smaller pieces without breaking them down at the molecular level. Hence, it converts to microplastics, which is even worse than plastic products, because they can be mixed up with each and every resource available on Earth without being noticed by the naked eye. It pollutes groundwater, air, food, etc. A recent study shows that microplastics are found in the human body.
Now, it is high time to stop using single-use plastic products. It has crossed the limit and reached our lungs and stomach in the form of microplastics. People even fear drinking tea or hot beverages in plastic glasses/cups because they can feel that some amount of plastics is migrated to the drink (however, the paper cups are also coated with a thin plastic film from inside and the government allowed it with the justification that it uses relatively fewer plastic). Though the public is not welcoming sustainable alternatives due to higher costs comparatively.
Let’s take an example of a water pouch, no one wants to drink water from a plastic pouch now because everyone knows that it is very harmful and it is not available in the market. But how does it get banned? Government restricted its manufacturing and selling very strictly, not by public awareness! This is how the public will stop using it, though they know it is harmful. Now the public is happily paying ₹5 for a water bottle instead of ₹1 for a pouch. Hence, the government’s role is very crucial for diverting to a healthy lifestyle in India. If the government employees ignore it and do not implement it strictly, just like the current carry bag’s micron restriction, the market will keep flooded with harmful products.