Published on: Apr 9, 2018
Weeks after the Maharashtra state government’s move to ban single use plastic packaging and bottles, reports coming in from the state indicate some major positives from the ban.
While the Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers Association has indicated plans to challenge the notification, on the grounds of job losses, the ban has helped spread awareness and in some cases, self regulation by a number of retailers. Speaking to retailers at Shirdi, the state’s famed pilgrimage city, one got the distinct impression that with better consumer understanding and awareness of the issues involved, everyone would find it easier to abide by the new reality. “ Devotees here are happy to adjust if we pass out Prasad and other offerings in paper bags, and don’t mind the little extra cost. If anyone asks, we simply tell them it has been banned because it was killing our water bodies and more. Most support it”, says a large retailer of puja offerings right outside the temple complex.
In the bigger cities, expectedly, the lead has been taken by large, organized retailers. Not just because they have the systems in place to manage the transition, but also because they are easy scapegoats for any transgressions by the government’s inspectors.
The small but fast growing segment of online grocers lhave taken the lead, with Big Basket, and Grofers moving to do away with all extra packaging in the case of the former, and a target to be a ‘plastic free’ zone across India by Grofers.
Godrej’s Nature’s Basket, a primarily urban chain for gourmet cuisine and foodstuffs, which had already been using paper bags in the NCR region, besides other locations, the move simply means an acceleration in its plans.
Interestingly, the implications of going ‘plastic free’ are different for organised offline retailers versus ecommerce players. For the organized retailers like DMart’s, with a huge footprint in Maharashtra, the move entails extra costs in the form of cloth bags which consumers are expected to pay for.
For the ecommerce players on the other hand, at least at the customer side, it is obvious that there is a reduction in costs, as they simply do away with the packaging.
The key issue, everyone agrees, is higher awareness among consumers. “It is not too difficult for people to keep a cloth bag handy in their vehicles for any impulse or last minute shopping of foods”, as one retailer we spoke to said. That, and an awareness that the plastic ban is practically a case of too little too late would certainly help, as even the existing contamination will take years to collect and clean up.
With Maharashtra being the hub of so many of the affected sectors, one hopes that the learnings will not need a series of bans across states to be taken out to other regions too.