As per the Basel Convention, to which India is a signatory, if a country prohibits a particular article, either on the production or consumption front, that country cannot trade in that product internationally.

Rahul Wadke
Vinod Mathew

Mumbai, Sept. 30

THE ban on plastic bags in Maharashtra is likely to have its impact felt beyond the geographical confines of the State.

As per the Basel Convention, to which India is a signatory, if a country prohibits a particular article, either on the production or consumption front, that country cannot trade in that product internationally.

This means, if plastic bags are banned in India or by any State in India, no producer from anywhere in the country can export it.

The ban of plastic would fall under the purview of Basel Convention, in its Multilateral Environmental Agreement on cross-border trade on hazardous goods and it would translate into a ban on exports of plastic bags from India, Mr K.G. Ramanathan, President-Governing Council, Indian Centre for Plastics in the Environment, told Business Line.

Exports of bags worth Rs 500 cr: Industry estimates put the value of various types of plastic bags exported from India last year in excess of Rs 500 crore.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, total exports of plastics and related articles were to the tune of Rs 9,150 crore in 2004-05.

"As per the multilateral agreement of Basel Convention on international trade of hazardous goods, it does not matter if plastic bags are banned only in Maharashtra.

"Exporters of plastic bags from across the country will be negatively affected. Some of the major plastic manufacturers have re-located outside Maharashtra on account of tax breaks," Mr Ramanathan said.

Spin-off effect: Also, there would be a spin-off effect as goods packaged in plastic bags such as mango-pulp, fish, spices and other food items too would fall under the purview of this ban. Which, in turn, would take up the monetary impact of the ban to well over Rs 1,000 crore, according to a plastic bag manufacturer.

"What right does Maharashtra have to jeopardise plastic exports? Countries such as China, Thailand and Bangladesh, which are already competing with us, would move into the space vacated by us," said Mr Vijay Merchant, President, Polycraft Industries, a manufacturer of industrial plastics.

Some of the major importers of plastic bags from India include the likes of Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Selfridges and Publics. A variety of plastic bags are exported from India - such as block bags, shoppers bags, garbage bags, bin liners, flat bags made from LLDPE, HDPE, grocery bags, milk bags and so on.

There are some 600 factories in the country manufacturing plastic bags.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 1, 2005)
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