WP?: Recently, you were conferred as one of Asia’s most promising business leaders by The Economic Times? A big honour for our industry.
VK: Indeed. I am honoured to be conferred as one of Asia’s most promising business leader. At Manjushree, we have always stood for integrity, customer centricity, innovation and environment sustainability. This award will give me the impetus to work further towards sustainability, its implementation and achieving the common goal of circular economy.
WP?: The last time we interacted you unveiled Packaging Association for Clean Environment (PACE). Any new initiative by PACE that you would like to mention?
VK: PACE has been active after the announcement of the initiative, Karo Sambhav that is responsible to take forward the goals of sustainability.
WP?: How so?
VK: PACE has formed two ventures which will take forward the objectives laid out in our announcement earlier. They are: Circular Sustainability Solutions (CSSPL) which is a venture that will enable the industry to create a solution for extended producer responsibility (EPR) fulfillment in coordination with the government, regulators and the civil society. Then there is Karo Sambhav Foundation (KSF), which has been formed in order to create recycling infrastructure for society at large.
WP?: In what way?
VK: KSF is capable to accept CSR funding as well from like-minded organisations. It will utilise the CSR funds of producers to enhance livelihoods of waste pickers in the eco-system and drive the socio-economic development of waste pickers via skilling and on-going training.
WP?: What is the aim of both ventures?
VK: The new ventures will create rules of collaboration across the stakeholders and develop scalable processes and solutions. It will utilise technology platform for bringing transparency, traceability and auditability. The entities will develop and harmonise operating procedures for convergence, nurture an eco- system that will set standards to optimise each stage of the value chain, create an inclusive approach for waste pickers and aggregators and also set a fare pricing.
WP?: What are the learnings that you can Sambhav?
VK: The major learnings from Karo Sambhav as well as brands together under the EPR rules. The idea is to formulate a complete ecosystem
WP?: Sounds interesting. Do you think we should launch a coding system to identify and classify all packaging out there to cover the entire lifecycle of packaging from its constituents to its functions and its ability to recycle? If yes, what should it be?
VK: It is difficult to launch any coding system on the labels for identification. However, at the bottom of every bottle or package, the recycling number is given from one to seven identifying different grades of plastics such as PET, HDPE, LDPE, etc. We need to work hard further for a proper coding system for identification of different plastics and material to make recycling easier and workable.
WP?: Collection of post-consumer packaging is often cited as the biggest hurdle in recycling and meeting EPR goals. Do you agree?
WP?: Do you think packaging can be optimised in a way that can help make collection easier?
VK: Plastic packaging needs to be redesigned in bigger sizes with higher weight so that it is attractive for waste collectors. Small formats of packaging such as carry bags are not collected due to very low returns.
WP?: What are the brands demanding for such sustainable materials?
VK: Almost all the leading brands are working on sustainable materials. However, at the moment packaging made from bio-degradable materials is in R&D stage. It is not necessarily compostable so there are challenges to be tackled here. Aside from this, biodegradable materials also need a different identification because it cannot go into regular recycling streams with non-biodegradable materials as it can lead to the damage of the entire batch making it non-reusable and the whole purpose of recycling will be lost.
WP?: Big brands are getting serious about sustainability, but what about the mid-sized brands?
VK: The big brands are of course getting serious about sustainability. However, the midsize brands are also working towards the goal. They may follow the path of the big brands in the times to come.
WP?: What are the pain points in the packaging converting space in India?
VK: The biggest pain point in the packaging converting space in India is that there is no centralised authority in place that can frame rules, which can then be implementable by all the states. Currently, every state is formulating its own plastic waste management rules, which is not practical nor workable.
WP?: What is your vision to create a circular economy for plastics?
VK: My vision would be to first have the Government or the authorities responsible to frame clear-cut rules along with the industrial associations and other organisations. They should work around a workable and sustainable process to start with and in the second phase of implementation, the same can be revised to achieve further targets and goals.
WP?: How can consumers, brands and converters be on the same page for achieving a sustainable goal?
VK: The consumers, brands, and converters have to work together to achieve sustainable goals. However, there is a greater need for educating the customers and public at large about managing the post-consumer waste which needs to be segregated and disposed of properly. The apartment owners and municipal corporations also have to play a larger role to enable efficient collection system for segregation. If not, then the recycling process cannot work efficiently and economically.
WP?: Have consumers become more aware and responsible in terms of demands for sustainability? If yes then how?
VK: The consumers are somewhat aware about their responsibility for sustainability, but they have no other alternative to plastics. And so, they have less options with respect to alternative packaging.