Chennai

A month on, plastics make a quiet comeback across retail formats

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From vendors in Koyambedu to big outlets in T. Nagar, banned polybags abound

Around 160 units manufacturing the 14 banned plastic items have remained closed for a month now. However, plastic carry bags, cups and straws continue to be found in the market. Small eateries that cannot afford aluminium foil or paper/cardboard packaging have gone back to their old ways.

Banned bags abound at the Koyambedu wholesale market complex. Nearly 25% of vendors in the vegetable retail market use plastic bags. S. Mukkiah, secretary, Chennai Koyambedu Flowers Merchant Association, said: “We get flowers from places including Salem, Thiruvannamalai and Dindigul packed in large plastic covers.”

Nearly 70% of the vendors pack flowers in plastic bags. This is due to resistance from retail vendors to shift to eco-friendly materials, he claimed. Though the merchants had attempted to use other packaging materials, retail vendors were not prepared to pay for those alternatives since they were costly. Only customers who buy for domestic use bring their own bags.

Back on popular demand

A vessel merchant in T. Nagar said that they have been using plastic bags because they cannot wrap each utensil in newspapers. “When the ban was imposed, we wrapped vessels in newspapers but customers said they won’t be able to carry them home. So we decided to use plastic bags and if you look around all the big shops in T. Nagar are using plastics,” the proprietor pointed out.

Even at Tasmac shops, plastic tumblers have come back. The manager of one such outlet said, “Introducing glasses was a bad idea. Tipplers break them and we can’t even ask them for payment. So we decided to bring back plastics.”

A person involved in the daily collection of garbage in the city said that there was a visible reduction of plastics for about 10 days. The bigger shops have switched over to costlier alternatives and are billing their customers. But the smaller players cannot afford such items and have continued to pack sambar and chutney in plastic covers,” he said.

With manufacturers shutting shop, how do dosa batter sellers, fast food centres and petty shops get their plastic packaging material? “What has happened is that the State government took away jobs of over 2 lakh people in one stroke and has not bothered to check arrivals from other States,” said a manufacturer, who did not want to be named. State president of the Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaipu Vikramaraja said that the move has crushed local manufacturers. “The raw material for the biodegradable carry bags have to be imported, which means our industries have not benefited from the ban. Multinational companies that use multi-layer plastics have not been touched,” he pointed out.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 5:42:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-month-on-plastics-make-a-quiet-comeback-across-retail-formats/article26143606.ece

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