Life & Style

Mall intent- How malls in Coimbatore have adapted to the plastic ban

Change in the air  

It has been two months since the ban on single-use plastic came into effect in the state and, when I visited the three malls, I was served ice cream in a glass bowl instead of a plastic one, sold a cloth carry bag since I had not taken my own and politely refused a takeaway parcel. It is heartening to see the watering holes for city shoppers batting for the environment, but it has been a struggle to do away with plastic, they admit.

Stop One: Brookefields Mall

139 Stores of which 105 use paper carry bags, 28 use cloth bags and six use biodegradable starch bags

It is 10:30 am and the Brookefields Mall is just warming up. The information desk near the entrance is lined with cloth bags. “Anyone who shops for more than ₹ 500 can claim a bag from here,” the lady behind the counter informs me.

“We have been trying to shift to eco-friendly alternatives for the past two and a half years. I find a tremendous increase in the number of people who bring their own bags,” says Sujatha NA, marketing manager. Another promising change is that many stores that did not know non-woven bags were also detrimental to the environment have made amends with cloth or paper bags. “Once we learnt about it, we stopped using non-woven bags,” says Radhakrishnan R, Retail IT executive of Twin Birds (women’s clothing outlet).

Mall intent- How malls in Coimbatore have adapted to the plastic ban

According to an official at the Spar Hypermarket, they made the switch from plastics in July 2018. They now provide brown paper bags and cloth bags to its customers. Lifestyle store manager, GM Saravanan, says, “All the 78 Lifestyle shops in the country have stopped using plastic covers. Paper carry bags are available in three sizes. Customers have to pay if they want them. They range from₹ 3 to ₹7.”

Some stores such as Brownie Cottage politely decline to provide carry bags to their customers if they ask for them. “We pack the food items in re-usable plastic containers,” says Aravind A, sales executive. Baskin Robbins has gone a step further and now does not take online delivery orders. “We used to pack the ice-cream in a paper cup with a plastic lid. We had to stop as we could not find anything to replace the lid,” says Balamurugan R, sales executive. At the food court the change has been made to paper straws, aluminium foil, wooden cutlery and paper cups, “But stuff like cling wraps and dip containers are difficult to replace,” admits its manager Sampath Kumar.

SPI Cinemas offers a ₹20 discount for anyone who brings his/her own cup for coffee and the kitchen staff now use rubber gloves instead of plastic ones. They also serve their sandwiches on plates made of cornstarch.

Stop Two: Prozone Mall

113 Stores. Most of which use paper bags and a few cloth ones. Some are still unaware that non-woven bags are not bio-degradable.

The mall had begun to shift to environmental-friendly alternatives six months before the bag came into effect. “The process was smooth as we had enough time to plan. All the food stalls now use wooden cutlery and melamine plates for dine in and reusable plastic containers for parcels,” informs Sreekumar M, manager-operations.

Outlets should not be using:
  • Plastic sheet/cling film used to wrap food
  • Plastic sheet to spread on the dining table
  • Plastic and Polystyrene plates
  • Plastic-coated paper plates/cups
  • Plastic tea cups/tumblers
  • Polystyrene cups
  • Plastic carry bags of all sizes and thickness
  • Plastic-coated carry bags
  • Non-woven bags
  • Plastic water packets
  • Plastic straws

“We charge anything from ₹8 to ₹12 depending on the size of the paper cover. These are more expensive than the plastic bags,” says Suganya M, sales executive at the Archies Store. At Boomerang, I am served ice cream in a glass bowl. “For parcel, we use re-usable plastic containers. For online deliveries , we charge an extra ₹15,” says Palani S, manager. This applies across all outlets. At Reliance Trends, manager Dinesh N explains, “We used to charge ₹3 to ₹7 for plastic packaging. The rates remain the same for paper as well.”

There are stores that use something that looks suspiciously like the banned non-woven bags, but when I asked about this, the response from the shop official was, “The packaging is issued by the company.”

Stop Three: Fun Republic Mall

97 Stores. Most outlets use paper and cloth bags.

The changeover was a problem in the food court, admits administrative officer Ramakrishnan BS. At Reliance Smart, I see customers walking out with purchases in white cotton bags. “Around 40% bring back the carry bags,” says an official. At Café Coffee Day, the shift has been made from plastic cups to paper cups.

Sujatha Nachiappan, Proprietor of Snap Jutes, a store that sells jute products, says that she sells her products in upcycled newspaper and regular brown paper covers. Fresh Fushions, a food stall, uses re-usable plates. “Earlier, it was served in plastic and polystyrene plates. Now, we use cups and straws made of paper for juice”, says Pappusu R, manager. The store has also stopped its takeaway service. “Paper cups get soggy after a point of time. We are looking for alternative options,” Pappusu adds.

The change has not been easy. For example, Geetha M of Eatalyian Pizza serves her pizza in a cardboard box. “We also give a paper carry bag. Both these are expensive. I have stopped providing dips for takeaway, as I cannot find an alternative for the container.” Storage has also become a problem, says Geetha, who now has the added expense of doing pest control once in a week.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 5:33:43 AM |

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