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Plastic ban chokes small restaurants, street vendors under sudden spike in cost

Starting July 1, India banned the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of identified single-use plastic items. September last year, the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry already banned polythene bags thinner than 75 microns

July 04, 2022 / 02:10 PM IST
(Image: AP)

(Image: AP)

Small restaurant owners and street vendors are grappling with an increase in their expenses since the ban on plastic packets came into effect on Friday. The move is likely to double the cost of their items, said many businesses Moneycontrol reached out to.

“I buy one plastic glass and the cover for Rs 5 in wholesale. Now if I have to replace that, it will cost me Rs 10. Plus, the show of the item is lost which is clear in plastic. Many times, that too becomes a selling factor,” said a popular juice seller near Ulsoor in Bengaluru.

He added that shifting the items to non-plastic container will take at least two to three months.

Starting July 1, India banned the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of identified single-use plastic items. The environment, forest and climate change ministry banned polythene bags thinner than 75 microns last September. The previous maximum was 50 microns. From December 2022, polythene bags smaller than 120 microns will also be banned. 

“If the government  planned to ban plastic, they should have worked with the industry to create alternatives at a reasonable price,” said Sagar Daryani, CEO and co-founder, Wow! Momo Foods. He is also the vice-president of NRAI. 

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“Because of the ban, everyone from last week started  moving away from plastic. This has created a lot of pressure on the supply-chain as there are not many manufacturers in India building alternative options. This, along with the inflation costs, have created a lot of burden on the industry and increased the overall costs along with shortage of supply,” Daryani rued.

“When I am ordering new stocks, my prices have shot up. And we increased our prices just last month, where we factored in inflation but not the packaging cost. That would have become too much of a burden on the consumer,” he said.

It will take another 6-12 months to find more vendors and for the costs to come down, according to Daryani.

NRAI is also actively looking to create a vendor network which can help restaurants to move away from plastic.

Many of the other larger players, however, say that while it has not impacted them significantly, it will create a friction for the first few months. Foodtech major Swiggy has started charging an additional of Rs 2 for its quick-commerce arm Instamart. The company did not respond to e-mailed queries on this matter. 

“As a business, it will increase the costs and as a consumer, it might decrease convenience - but from a long-term perspective, its definitely a good move,” Kaushall Duggarr, founder of direct-to-consumer brand Teabox, said.

“At Teabox, we have replaced bubble wraps with honey comb, plastic water bottles with metal ones and are actively pushing consumers to switch to lose leaf instead of teabags,” he said.

Most eateries are waiting for the manufacturers and the government to come up with some solutions to wriggle out of the ban-induced deadlock. "We too are concerned about the environment but we don’t even have alternatives for some of the items,” said another restaurant owner, refusing to be identified. "I don't even know how to find these manufacturers who can help me with the shift," he added.

Many of these small outlet owners cited this problem, saying that the awareness about these alternatives is very low and they do not know how to find a solution.

Overall, the cost increases around 5-10 percent but it definitely increases the complexity on the operation side for the businesses, according to the restaurant owners.
Sanghamitra Kar
first published: Jul 4, 2022 02:10 pm
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