Can print take advantage of the plastic ban? - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

The Maharashtra government has imposed a ban on use of plastic from 18 March 2018. The reason: Take a walk to any public space like a beach or a park in Mumbai city, and you will see carelessly discarded plastic detritus. Worse are the disposable plastic bags. Invented in the 1960s, it made life easy for shoppers but without a proper disposable mechanism, it has ensured that they become a scourge after its first use. Reduced thickness has only added to the woes.

In 2006, following the Mum

30 Mar 2018 | By Noel D'Cunha

Mehul Desai, president, BMPA 
The ban will have a far-reaching impact. While there is no question that this is a step in the right direction what I find worrisome is that we are not prepared to meet this ban. Businesses are searching for solutions. Small businesses are likely to be more impacted.
Ideally, we should have put solutions in place and then implemented the ban.

Surely it is an opportunity for those who print on paper and board. But there are a lot of printing firms out there who print on materials that are banned now. It will impact them, which is a worry.

At BMPA we have been highlighting paper is green for a long time. We have, in fact, recently written to the concerned ministry drawing attention to the fact that paper is green and that this negative campaign by electronic/digital media is not correct. We also have highlighted this on BMPA social media feeds. We will continue to push this message.

Hemant Bhotica
The ban will hurt the plastic industry but make Mumbai a better place to live in. However, it should benefit the paper bag industry. I hope the plastic business doesn't go out of Maharashtra. The printing and packaging associations have to work towards sending the message of ‘paper is green’ for sure. We can't take it for granted.

B Prasad, Printech

I am not against plastic usage ban; I welcome it. Reducing the usage of plastic is a good step for a better environment. However, please note that many small businesses are dependent on these materials for their livelihood. One will always accept that the highest employment providers in the country are SMEs. I would call them as urban farmers, who are self-dependent. Now, an abrupt ban like these will certainly impact many lives. SME investments and loans taken for machinery can’t be serviced. A stressed out sector already burdened by GST and note ban, now face closure. 

My point here is, let the government give time to these SMEs time to get ready with alternates, provide them interest-free loans, write-off loans that were taken for plastic making and printing machines.

France was the first country that has banned plastic bags. No doubt it was successful and other countries are following them. In India plastic bags have become intrinsic to our daily life. As a result, many SMEs mushroomed. The entire retail sales revenues depend on it. Moreover, how can you change consumer behaviour overnight? In my opinion, the government must provide alternate material within six months, if not it’s a futile exercise. 

Coming to the direct question on the opportunity for paper and paperboard units in Maharashtra, why only paper, we can even look at denim, jute, canvas, water hyacinth etc...

No doubt, the paper is eco-friendly, lightweight, easily foldable, no harmful chemicals, but paper alone can’t replace plastic usage as it carries its own disadvantages for regular hop-jump and roll usage.

Jehangir Surti, Prodon Enterprise
The gain will be for the paper industry as a whole. It's is a huge opportunity for paperboard units as well as converters. From an association point of view, this is another opportunity to drive home the message - of the paper is green. A campaign should be started to promote the use of paper products wherever possible.

Vijay Adlakha, Infinity Advertising
Undoubtedly it is going to be huge as usage of plastic bags in routine life is so much that we tend to not notice. But this move will make us realise how we were adversely affecting the environment. However, I and my company truly stand by it.

This move is a boon to the paper industry. As paper is one of the ideal substitutes you can think of to the plastic and it can be recycled easily.

This plastic ban will spike use of paper. Therefore, there will be deforestation, and to fill-up, afforestation will need a serious look.

Gururaj Ballaward, director, Wintek Flexo
All I can say is that it’s good news for nature, and the impact on the environment will be reduced to some extent. The ban is certainly a good opportunity for both the printers and paper manufacturers. The ban has given an opportunity to the players in the industry to drive the message – paper is green.

Ravi Joshi, United Multicolour
The plastic ban will help in resolving environmental hazards. Yes, it’s an opportunity to replace plastic products with paper wheresoever possible, for example, lamination will be replaced by varnishes coatings.

Printing associations will support the ban, as this will help in living conditions and more opportunities for the present print businesses.

Rupesh Sawant, Superlekha Press
Yes, the impact of the ban will be far-reaching. But, there is a way out. In some way, along with the ban if we can change our mindset and start using plastic very consciously, I think we can make plastic our friend once again.

When plastic was invented, the world population would have been around 10 crores. At that time, man didn’t need plastic for their day-to-day needs. Today with around 800-crore people, we will need plastic. However, the need or utility of plastic has to be strict to necessities like distribution of milk and oil. So in short, keep it simple and use plastic to a bare minimum.

I guess, with the plastic ban, all high-end packaging will end. So, there's a big opportunity for innovation. At Drupa, I saw a paper coating which allowed you could deep-fry food items on a gas.

Ashwini Deshpande, Elephant Design 
We have had a ban on plastic bags below 50 microns since 2006. This was imposed after witnessing the horrifying effects of choked drainages during July 2005 showers of rain in Mumbai. Unfortunately, neither manufacturers nor consumers took it seriously. As a result, a further ban on several other plastic items has been declared. This time around, it seems like a serious call. It may need some re-alignments for print and packaging industry. But if we look at the bigger picture, it will not only be good for the environment but will also accelerate innovations in the fields of materials and recycling.

This is a great opportunity for the entire paper industry to stand up and take the challenge of innovating something that is appropriate and sensible in every way. Just shifting to paper bags will be pointless if the bags are printed using a lot of ink. When a newspaper is recycled, the insoluble ink has to be separated and that amounts to huge non-biodegradable waste. So I would urge caution in branding overkill on paper bags and boxes. Let us practice minimalist attitude when it comes to embellishments.

#paperisgreen only if there is no overdone print or finish or coating on it. I hope the magnitude of urgency is understood and given due respect unanimously. I hope all of us including designers, marketeers and print/ packaging converters exercise our responsibility towards the future.

Praful Akali
This time, I believe, the ban on plastic will be forcefully implemented.

Yes, the ban will be an opportunity for paper and paperboard units, but, I think we will see paper bags replacing plastic bags. Anyone in this chain should benefit.

#paper is green# message is strong. Don't think the print associations need to highlight it. Paper as a relatively eco-friendly option to plastic is already well established. The government has done the job for the associations by announcing the ban.

Sandeep Agarwal, general manager-compliance and regulatory affairs, Datt Mediproducts
The ban is good for the environment. Handmade paper bags used in the 80's will be back in focus.

Is this an opportunity for paper and paperboard units in Maharashtra? Not necessarily. They already exist. Production capacity may increase, although other adjoining states would meet the demand. Going forward, recycled and FSC certified papers would be the next message.

Vinay Kaushal, Provin Technos
I am not a fan of the word "ban". Anything you ban in India leads to increase in corruption. Ban is not a solution. Finding a way to recycle/ reuse is.

I am, however, not sure how much the impact will be although the initial reaction from printers is adverse. On the other hand, innovative printers will gain.

RY Kamat, Hubergroup
Plastic became part of our day-to-day life and the most essential thing in various aspects. Use of plastic is very safe and saves wastage of food and energy. Banning plastic is not a solution to the problem. We must find a way control the environmental issues through better plastic waste management. I feel it will affect many of us and we will find it difficult to live without plastic.

You cannot replace plastic with paper and paperboard. Use of paper is not environmental friendly. You need to sacrifice a lot of trees. At the same time you can’t replace plastic with paper totally. Maybe some part can be replaced with paper. Therefore, partially this may look like an opportunity for paper and paperboard units in Maharashtra.

From the printing association point of view, the ban on plastic will have adverse effect on printing volume and I am sure our association will send communication to government of Maharashtra to reconsider the decision not to ban the plastic but to find a solution to recycle the plastic by engaging local bodies to manage collection of plastic waste.

BS Kampani, Young India Concepts
Growth, comfort, ease of shopping or transferring a commodity from one place to another without responsibility to the nation or the universe or its stakeholders, including the government, industry and its people (namely the users) is not possible. Perhaps, let this be a lesson to us Indians, where civic and social responsibility is a facade.

Yes, there's a tremendous opportunity for paper and paperboard units in Maharashtra, both in terms of improving quality like the burst strength, odour and moisture or water resistant using water-resistant aqueous coatings, making sure that the smell of the adhesive along with its bond strength are internationally accepted. Graphic designs are incorporated for branding, etc. with innovation in robustness for usage and designs.

I hope that old newspapers are not used for food packaging at the kirana shops or other shops as this would reinforce the carcinogenic issues for humans. Moreover, Maharashtra especially, Mumbai, has always been a trendsetter in packaging materials. So let this be seen a challenge to meet the crisis with an innovation. 

In my opinion, associations are very responsible, intelligent and challenge-hungry capitalisers of opportunities. I am sure the associations collectively, responsibly and with pride will be the first to face the challenge for the society and environment at large. This will be an innovation delight. I only hope we don't deplete forest resources in the name of innovation and challenge.

Sanjiv Kalra, business manager, industrial adhesive at Pidilite
The plastic ban will bring the change in the ways packaging was being done for many years. With no control over the use of plastic, the effect on environment and health was evident. This bold decision will bring control on plastic use particularly on avoidable applications. This will deliver a balanced growth for various industries. For example glass, steel, a variety of plastics which can be reused, textile, paper and paperboard will get a boost and a relook on its development.

Maharashtra and particularly Mumbai being densely populated will be one of the first cities to take such steps. With many more states to follow the packaging industry is up for some changes in the ways packaging was being done.

Many Industries may benefit with these changes taking place. Paper and paperboard will surely benefit. Paper bags, paper cups, innovative paper plates apart from other packaging materials will get a boost.

Corrugation industry has seen a substantial growth in last few years. With these changes, the growth is set to rise further. 

Atul Gandhi, managing director, Macart Equipment
Ban alcohol and cigarettes first. They are also harmful to the society. But that will not happen. There’s a significant amount of revenues coming from it.

Show me one country which has a plastic ban policy like this one? Even the African countries and China, which have the ban on specific plastic products, do not have a complete ban.

Most of the developed countries are the ones who manufacture and use plastics, but they also have a robust recycling mechanism. Australia recycles 60-70% of its plastics followed by Germany and other European countries. Some countries have increased taxes on plastic bags, and those have seen 90% reduction in its usage. 

You can impose a ban on plastic bags, but things like plastic spoons, plates, and one-time-use products, is just not done. How can you ban plastic altogether? Does this mean, this monsoon there will be no raincoats to shelter you from rains? This is just one of the examples. 

From the flex point if view, I can tell that you will not find a single square-meter of flex on the roads. It’s perhaps the most reused plastic-based material. Flex can be used to produce raincoats and bags. People use it on rooftops during monsoon, while some use it as floorings.

I don’t think the Maharashtra government has done any study on the impact of the ban. There’s hardly any alternative to the things under the plastic ban, nor the mechanism for recycling plastic. Just collection centres for plastic products exempt from the ban will create more nuisance. Take the milk pouch for example. There will be an unbearable odour from the rotting milk in the bags/pouches collected. 

Further, there’s a huge sum of investments that have gone in manufacturing plastic products. What happens to that? How will the plastic manufacturers be compensated? The owners and those working in the factory will be affected. Where will they go, after having invested so much?

Ban everything that is wrong, but after doing a thorough study of its impact. Let there be uniformity across the nation. It should be a gradual process, well-thought out in terms of compensating those who are affected by the bans, and of course, adequately implemented.

Prashant Atre, Toyo Ink Arets

The world cannot be seen plastic-free as long as they see a larger benefit for themselves or a better alternative. Environment sensitivity is a bit too far from us even when it is knocking our door much closer than other nations. It can be addressed with some innovative and creative alternatives developed from bio-degradable materials like paper etc.

The Maharashtra government wants to implement this in stages, giving exemption to milk pouches, PET bottles, garbage bags and some other plastic products from the ban. The government has decided to exempt plastic being used as an integral part of packaging products including medicines, solid waste management, and agriculture products. It also means garbage bags will not be banned. It has exempted all plastic sheets of 50 microns or more used as covers in plant nurseries, milk pouches, and PET bottles.

The success of ban will depend upon its implementation both by the user and government agencies. It is to be seen how the Maharastra government implements it. But, it is a huge opportunity for paper, paperboard, and other alternative material to develop something sustainable to replace plastics from all or most of its use. Unless a good alternative is developed and given with mass scale deliveries, it will be difficult for any government to sustain a long-term campaign against plastic.

"Bhau saheb, kapade ki thaili kharid lo, jo hamare parents use karte the" - app Maharashtra me ho.

Sagar Java, CH Java
The plastic ban in Maharashtra has been long overdue. Disposable items have been polluting our oceans with tonnes of plastic. This current ban, if implemented as envisaged, would go a long way in helping us leave a better planet for our children. Recently, I was so excited to learn that sea-turtles have hatched at the Versova beach in Mumbai thanks to a 96-week voluntary cleaning drive that discarded tonnes of plastic. This is a step which is, of course, entirely environmentally friendly and will bring to an end the unnecessary use of plastics in our ecosystem.

The current decision to ban plastics is an opportunity to both cloth bags as well as paper bags. This should also enable paper cup usage over plastic cups used in millions for serving tea and coffee on the streets of Mumbai. The need of our times is to use materials that are biodegradable and will disintegrate into the soil rather than articles that will contaminate the system for decades to come.

Kamal Chopra, general secretary, Offset Printers Association, Ludhiana
AAs per the news, Maharashtra government has banned plastic containers, banners, boards, not just bags. On the one end, the ban will benefit the paper bag industry while on the other it is not good news for wide-format/flex printers.

Plastic bags have a bad reputation and with good reason. It takes centuries for one to dissolve after ending up in a landfill, while paper decomposes much more faster and quite quickly. In fact, according to a survey, plastic bags do not biodegrade at all, so you would have to wait for UV rays to destroy it, which can take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years or more. Paper is completely biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

It’s an excellent opening for paper and paperboard units in Maharashtra because with this ban paper bags is only replacement.

Anil Brahmbhatt, president, Screen Printing and Graphics Association of India (SGAI)
From the printing industry point of view, it is like the saying: One man's loss is another man's gain. If plastic is banned surely, the paper industry will have a field day, unless a substitute for plastic evolves. Within the plastic industry itself, plastic bags (shopping bags) have been banned (although it is being manufactured and used in shops in many remote places). And over the years, due to plastic bag ban, non-woven bag manufacturing and printing business has flourished across India. And in the Kolkata region, jute bag manufacturers are exporting bulk of their production instead of selling in India. In fact, many years ago, jute industry, which had once dominated packaging, had to suffer severely due to the usage of PP (polypropylene) bags. But after the plastic bag ban across the world, the jute industry (and paper) has made a comeback with a big bang as scores of manufacturers are making bags with exotic print designs and exporting to US and European countries.

But why the environment-friendly bags are not used within India as much as possible, because plastic and now non-woven are dominating the minds of people. So, in a nutshell, a ban on plastic in Maharashtra or whole of India, will propel demand for paper packaging, whether it is viable or not, whether it would mean cutting more trees or not… somebody’s loss is somebody’s gain! It’s something that happened to natural fibre (cotton and silk) versus man-made-fibre when it comes to clothing.

Yes, it will benefit paper and paperboard units in Maharashtra and paper and paperboard manufacturers across India, o even it may even propel the growth of import of these products. As I said, paper or plastic or its alternative, when it comes to the printing industry as a whole, it does not matter as printing industry will have jobs to print on. 

If manufacturing and using plastic is a ‘sin’ environmentally, the paper may equally cause damage to environment somewhere down the line, as the total elimination of plastic would lead to a steep rise in demand for paper products. In such a scenario, there will always be two lobbies, one saying, it’s ‘bad’, and another says it’s ‘good’. It’s a tricky scenario. I feel both materials have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the environment. Good or bad, if a total plastic ban comes into force, there will be challenges and opportunities for both the plastic as well as the paper industry.
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