As govt seeks to curb PET bottles, industry defends it

The plastic industry told the Modi government that PET bottles used to sell packaged drinking water doesn't come under the 'single-use plastic” category

Plastic industry on Monday told the Modi government that PET bottles used to sell packaged drinking water doesn't come under the 'single-use plastic” category and alternatives such as glass and paper have a higher carbon footprint.

This was conveyed to Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who had called a meeting with the plastic industry representatives to explore an alternative to plastic mineral water bottles, as the Modi government prepared to launch a nation-wide campaign to shun single-use plastic on October 2.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave the call to shun single-use plastic in his Independence Day address, reiterated his commitment at the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

“My government has announced that India will put an end to single-use plastic in the coming years. I believe the time has come for even the world to say good-bye to single-use plastic,” Modi said in his address to the UNCCD meeting in Greater Noida.

As Paswan made a strong pitch to look for alternative plastic bottles for selling mineral water, industry representatives told him that it was a tall ask as the PET bottles used were the recyclable and a clean and cheap option to package water.

“The PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are 100% recyclable and we are recycling 92% of the plastic bottles manufactured by us,” Behram Mehta, Secretary of the All India Natural Mineral Water Association said at the meeting.

But, Paswan insisted that an alternative had to be found and asked the industry to send in suggestions to the government by Thursday. He said the suggestions would be forwarded to an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by cabinet secretary, to examine the issue of banning single-use plastic.

Mehta told the meeting that the alternatives to PET – glass, steel, and paper – were expensive propositions and had a greater carbon footprint. Also, to make paper durable to hold liquids, a certain percentage of plastic blended with metals had to be used.

Moreover, the packaged bottled water industry has a turnover of Rs 30,000 crore, while the entire plastic industry is worth Rs 7.5 lakh crore and provided employment to seven crore people.

“It would be difficult to make changes overnight as it would involve huge costs,” Mehta told the meeting.

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