Sustainability for MSMEs: Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Sunday urged the government for a ‘phase-wise’ approach to banning single-use plastics in the country instead of a blanket ban, which came into effect on July 1, on manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of single-use plastic items. In a letter to Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav on Sunday, CAIT sought one-year time for traders to gradually switch to ‘equitable alternatives’.
“We humbly request you to please direct the concerned departments not to take coercive action against any trader or unit for at least the first year (of the ban),” the letter noted. A joint committee of senior government officials and other stakeholders should be set up with a time-bound mandate of suggesting and developing equitable alternatives to single-use plastic so that the country stops using it without any disruption, CAIT said.
Importantly, ahead of the ban, the government earlier this week had noted that the capacity-building workshops are being organized for MSMEs to provide them technical assistance for manufacturing alternatives to banned single-use plastic items with the involvement of CPCB/SPCBs/PCCs along with the Ministry of MSME, Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering (CIPET), and their state centres. Provisions have also been made to support such enterprises in transitioning away from banned single-use plastics, Environment ministry said in a statement on June 28.
The mass usage of single-use plastic has been for packaging or handling of goods because of its negligible price and ease of use. The confederation said the equitable alternatives are either not available or quite costly in comparison to single-use plastic and an immediate ban may cripple several economic activities related to different sectors such as food handling, healthcare, transportation, building construction, packaging, and more.
The list of banned items by the government included plastic carry bags, earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration, plastic plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
According to CAIT, the single-use plastic industry has an annual turnover of more than Rs 60,000 crore and employs lakhs of people. The existing alternatives to banned single-use plastics in the market are paper or stainless-steel straws, bamboo stirrers, reusable cups and glasses, bamboo utensils, bamboo cotton buds, jute or cloth bags, and more.