KMF's PET project is bad news for environment

KMF's PET project is bad news for environment

KMF's move to use PET bottles is bad news for environment

The Karnataka Cooperative Milk Producer’s Federation (KMF) announced on Saturday that it will add PET bottles to its packaging lineup, indicating that it is tone-deaf to the debate raging over the impact of plastic on environment. 

Speaking to Deccan Herald, M T Kulkarni, Director of Marketing, KMF, said the Federation has plans to package nearly all of its diary products in PET bottles in the near future. Currently, the Federation sells 38 lakh litres of milk each day through plastic sachets. With the development of a new manufacturing unit at Hassan, Kulkarni said that they will phase out sachet production by manufacturing 5 lakh PET bottles per day. The plant will be operational in July or August.

While PET, which stands for polyethylene terephthalate, is a food-grade plastic and is easier to recycle than sachets, the KMF’s decision surprised citizen groups and environmentalists.

Disappointing move

Sandya Narayan, who is a member of the Solid Waste Management Round Table of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, said she found the decision hard to understand.

“It is true that while PET is the most recyclable of plastics, but the KMF’s decision to move from a low-grade plastic to a high-grade plastic is disappointing because, ultimately, we should be moving away from any kind of plastic packaging at all,” she said, adding that a better decision would have been to adopt glass bottles or even tetrapacks.

“On a scale of optimum packing materials, glass is at the top. Tetrapacks, which are largely composed of paper, follow, and anything that is less than 100 per cent plastic comes after that,” she added.

Part of the problem with plastic, according to Wilma Rodrigues, the founder of Saahas Zero Waste Management, is the fact that milk tends to stain the packaging, making recycling difficult.

“While PET is definitely a better grade of plastic than sachets, both are notoriously difficult to recycle when they are used for the packaging of milk,” she said. “Milk contaminates plastics to such an extent that unless the containers are washed thoroughly, it is difficult to recycle them properly.”

While Kulkarni admitted that its new lineup of PET bottles will add to environmental pollution, he added that the organisation had no plans to build recycling plants to recover that plastic. “At the moment we cannot recycle our plastics because we do not have the machinery to do so, but it is a step that we will have to take in the future,” he said.

Kulkarni added that the Federation had rejected the use of glass for packing, citing minimal production of glass in India. Rodergues, however, contested this claim, saying that manufacturers in the country would be able to deliver glass in quantity should there be a demand for it.