Need of an hour for the bioplastic industry
Plastic processors are facing issues from both sides, one is uncertain government rules and regulations and the other is raw material short supply/unavailability. I have heard from many single-use plastic processors that they will close their factories at least for 2-3 months to see the government's actions and its strictness from 1st July (implementation of single-use plastic ban in India) and finalise to invest further.
The government announced a single-use plastic ban policy long ago and gave enough time to the industry to find alternatives and settle their business in advance. The government has announced that it will be rigorous and the penalties are also tough for those who violate the rules. At the same time, people fear that many policies from the government come aggressively and after some time it becomes liberal. If the industry starts investing in compostable/biodegradable material to manufacture single-use products, it may happen that their material and significant investment become idle. The industry has already experienced this situation in October 2019 and lost significant investments.
At the same time, the industry is also afraid of raw material availability. The basic raw materials for manufacturing compostable products are PLA and PBAT. There are various other materials too, but these two materials are the most viable and used in the majority of industries. The manufacturing of these materials is limited worldwide and is being imported to India. For the same reason, the cost of materials is also very high. The material consumption of the single-use plastic industry is also very high, replacing it with any compostable material is challenging at the moment due to limited availability and small production capacity worldwide.
To implement a successful single-use plastic ban in India, biopolymer material manufacturing is necessary for India.
It requires more investment, government involvement & support, research & development, etc. Big corporates have the potential to lead it to a successful technology and market. They can foresee the market and invest in particular research. Moreover, the government should come forward with all kinds of facilitation to support Indian manufacturers and also outline proper rules and regulations in the field. Joint effort can lead to a successful implementation of sustainable alternatives.
Public awareness is also one of the most important parameters for a sustainable future. Industry and government can jointly conduct it. Various campaigns, advertisements, social media campaigns, seminars, etc. can be helpful. At an early stage, the pricing would be higher due to insufficient technological development and unavailability of market competition; here comes the role of the government to invest in futurist technology by giving incentives, tax-free, investment subsidy or grants. It will result in the rapid growth of the industry.
Many companies have started their research to develop sustainable alternatives with the help of various materials like bagasse, biopolymer, agricultural waste, starch, etc. They will be developing specific products as per the requirement by using maximum sustainable materials.
Undoubtedly the market will be growing at a slow pace but consistent & steady, as many things need to be done by the government, the public and entrepreneurs.
I hope many more new materials will be coming to market, as development continues.
I see that this decade will be remembered for the drastic change in the packaging industry including all single-use plastic products.
In addition, the one who would have strong R & D has the potential to become the market leader. There is no doubt that many startups have the potential to take this position and new entrepreneurs might lead the industry in future. At the same time, collective efforts would help the industry to be developed rapidly.