From the Viewsroom

Easing out single-use plastic

Tina Edwin | Updated on August 26, 2019

Guwahati: A rickshaw puller carries empty plastic bottles to a recycling centre in Guwahati, Friday, Aug 23, 2019. (PTI Photo)(PTI8_23_2019_000143B)   -  PTI

Encourage FMCG majors to cut down on sachet, mini-packs

Sachet and small packs of biscuits, photo wafers, savouries, shampoos and several such items help drive sales, mostly because lower prices help generate more demand, not just from the low-income groups of households but from higher-income classes as well. While the small packs enhance the affordability of various goods, edible and otherwise, it also contributes significantly to plastic pollution both in urban and rural areas. Therefore, when the country embarks on a mission to cut the consumption of single-use plastics on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the government needs to co-opt the fast-moving consumer goods companies to modify their package sizes and retailing strategy. It could be argued that the timing to call for such changes is not appropriate as these companies are suffering due to demand contraction. A bulk of demand for these companies — over 60 per cent for biscuits and 80 per cent for potato chips — comes from packs priced below ₹10.

There isn’t a need to completely scrap sachet and small packets any time soon, but companies can incentivise consumers to opt for larger packs of items that have long shelf life instead of making tantalising offers with small packages. Consider, for instance, a common practice of retailing toothpaste as a pack of two small tubes or handwash and dishwash solution with ‘buy two, get one free’ offers. Attractive pricing for medium size pack of toothpaste and large saver packs of handwash and dishwash solutions can help reduce the generation of plastic garbage. Many companies are offering such options, but they need to aggressively push larger packs with better prices.

In addition to encouraging companies to change package sizes, they should be helped to adopt more eco-friendly and recyclable packaging for both edible and non-edible items. While every company owes it to its shareholders to generate healthy sales and bottom-line, it also owes it to Nature to adopt sustainable methods. The onus is also on the manufacturers of packaging material to innovate and introduce greener packaging material. A ban on single-use of plastics such as grocery bags, drinking straws and cutlery can only be a small step towards saving the environment.

The author is a Senior Deputy Editor at The Hindu BusinessLine

Published on August 26, 2019

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