Nearly 700 plastic-manufacturing units in Gujarat, a major producer of raw materials for the plastic industry, are on the verge of closure with municipal bodies in the state seeking a blanket ban on the use of plastic products in contravention of the government’s recent notification that prohibits the manufacture of plastic bags less than 50 microns thick.
In a conversation with FE, Gujarat State Plastic Manufacturers Association’s (GSPMA) Rajiv Raval said, “In March, the Centre had issued a notification banning the manufacturing of plastic bags of below 50 microns in thickness, which was to be implemented across the country within six months after preparing relevant by-laws. However, on May 1, the Rajkot Municipal Corporation issued a notification declaring that manufacturing, stocking, selling and use of plastic items of any thickness would be banned with immediate effect. Similarly, on May 8, the Vadodara commissioner issued a similar notification, in retrospective effect from May 1.”
Subsequent to this, about 100 units in both cities have stopped production, leading to concerns of unemployment for nearly 1,200 workers employed at these plants. Those belonging to the plastic industry have asked for two years’ time to make the necessary changes in their production. “We are very positively inclined towards the government’s notifications regarding the ban on plastic bags thicker than 50 microns. We ourselves will make sure that these rules are implemented properly, and will denounce members who do not follow these rules. However, this haphazard banning is causing great distress to us, especially at a time when the state government is actively promoting the Make in India, Make in Gujarat campaign. Outsiders are bound to think twice about investing in the plastic industry in Gujarat in the wake of such moves,” Raval added. According to GSPMA, Surendranagar may also bring the notification into effect from June 1.
The plastic and polymer industry, worth about R1,44,000 crore, sees 65% of its raw materials produced in the state of Gujarat. Of this, plastic processing units in Gujarat consume 30% of the raw materials produced by the industry in India. The country is home to 30,000 processing units in the organised sector while the unorganised sector consists of nearly 20,000 units. It may be mentioned that plastic is used in almost all major industries, including ones as diverse as pipes, woven sacks, sugar, fertilisers, cement and medical equipment like syringes.
Maulik Pandya, who is part of the environmental committee for GSPMA, said, “Members of GSPMA held meetings at the offices of Gujarat State Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar last week. Expressing ignorance at how these rules are being implemented while by-laws on plastic waste management are yet to be framed, GPCB officials assured us that they would hold a meeting with municipal bodies across Gujarat within the next month to take up the issue of the blanket ban on plastics. They agreed that the industry must be given some time to make the necessary changes in production.”
GSPMA vice-president Dipen Patel expressed fears that the ban in Rajkot and Vadodara may only be the beginning. He said, “If bans like these continue, soon we could see milk pouches, water pouches and bottles also being banned. It is better to educate people regarding waste management practices rather than banning the item altogether.”
Representatives of the industry are slated to meet Gujarat’s finance department later this month.