Metal has great recycle value

Metal packaging has seen a steady growth of around 4%, and accordingly, Tinplate, which is into packaging raw material, has grown. The Q1 results of 2015 seem good, with a standalone total income of Rs 229.11 crore from operations and a net profit of Rs 22.80 crore for the quarter ended June 2015. Noel D’Cunha talks to Tarun Daga, managing director, The Tinplate Company of India

10 Oct 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

Noel D’Cunha (ND): What happened at Tinplate in the last 12 months?
Tarun Daga (TD):
Nothing specific, but yes, we have our own facility focusing more on ensuring that the environmental impact owing to our operation are continuously improved. We do a lot of work in that direction. We are also working on improving the safety of our operations. This is something we have been trying to focus a little more.
ND: Metal packaging is around Rs 500 crore...
I can’t say in crores, but there is more than half a million tonnes of consumption of tinplate in India. The valuation would vary according to the cost of metal in India.

ND: Paper and plastics are enjoying a better growth rate, but it’s not bad for metal either?
Yes, my guess is that the  success of paper and plastic has to do with the mouldability of the product. It is not a rigid material. As a result, it can lend itself to all forms and shapes and sizes, which gives it the flexibility to be able to use better.
ND: What are pros and cons of metal as packaging?
Needless to add that all forms of metal can be recycled and re-melted. This is the benefit of metal packaging. On the other hand, as it is a rigid material, the form, the sizes are not as flexible as plastic. The point I am trying to make is all packaging media has a place. It depends on the value proposition, which is important to a consumer, as society, a brand owner, a food processor.
Flexibility and mouldability are important. This is little difficult with metal. But if it is rigidity, perhaps the protective barriers that metal offers become important. UV rays cannot penetrate through metal. Recyclability is another important factor, where metal scores.
ND: But metals cost more than other material, which is perhaps going against it?
I do understand, but what is not factored in is the cost of recycling. I am not an expert to assign any cost to it, but it’s something that one has to consider, and take a call. Sitting in this position, I would not advocate that one packaging media is worse off than the other packaging media, because that would be a myopic way of looking at it. Each packaging media has a characteristic and each has its place. 
ND: There are restrictions on usage of plastics in pharma products on the anvil?
I am not an expert in this. The metal packaging sector I come from does not have too many applications in pharma. What are the alternatives for pharma, I do not know.
ND: How has packaging changed in the last five years?
What I see is a lot of interest in packaging. I’ve been coming to this exhibition for the last decade or so. And the kind of interest that is coming not just from the raw material converters, but also from machinery manufacturer, which to me is a fantastic lead indicator that there is a lot of interest in the packaging industry.
This I find very interesting. Second, if I have to take a count of the number of exhibition, seminars and conferences, which are happening around packaging, they were more ‘hum bhi hai’ types. But now, there are subject-specific seminars. The Ministry of Food Processing is getting involved in a big way in terms of promotion of processed food. It’s becoming a tremendous employment multiplier. So there’s a lot of support in that. A huge amount of packaging takes place in food processing industry.
ND: A lot is said about Make in India… there’s a session in the WPC conference. It sounds good…
It does, but it also needs to be backed up by a lot of brand management and marketing efforts. Because the more you put the good in smaller quantities and smaller packs, so much you are nearer to the consumers in the entire value chain. And as you get closer to your consumers, brand promotional marketing efforts need to be upped to a different scale altogether. Yes, there is definitely greater value add, but calls for lots of investment.
ND: Are we blindly following the West, when it comes to packaging?
No, I do not think we are blindly following the  packaging of the West. Yes, ideas will definitely come from there, because the economy of packaging per capita of their population is much higher than it is in India, no doubt about it. Therefore, the advancements they have achieved in packaging is also much more, and definitely, there will be ideas flowing from there into India. But then, there are Indian companies who are doing work of their own, and creating a brand for themselves.
You can see enough examples of that at the exhibition itself, some of them are path creators and hold a standing for themselves. They would give a run for their money in international market, developing work indigenously. Because the West has moved faster, ideas will come from there. And, there’s no harm in borrowing that idea, if it’s good.
ND: Where does Tinplate see a market for itself – the metros, cities or the small humble town?
When it comes to metal packaging, it has an excellent printability, excellent rigidity, and a very good shelf life, also making it absolutely rodent-free. So if it’s good for the metros, and because of it rigidity, making transportation safe, and a good shelf life, the rural market also is good. To my view, metal packaging has all the ingredients to be of immense benefit to a large city consumer as also for the hinterland.
ND: One important thing that would be good for packaging, according to you?
I think a raw material supplier, a converter and a brand owner or a food processor need to work together to woo consumers. This is one thing that will take care of many facets, including environment. This will be a real game-changer.