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Plastic ban impact: Coke, Pepsi, Bisleri start printing buyback value on PET bottles
Top beverage makers including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Bisleri have begun printing a buyback value on all PET (plastic) bottles sold in Maharashtra to comply with new regulations and help check plastic littering.
Consumers can return empty plastic bottles and will get paid as per the value of the buyback printed on bottles.
While the government has allowed the companies to keep the buyback value flexible, most companies have settled on Rs 15 per kg for PET bottles, and Rs 5 per kg for shrink wraps.
However, some industry officials said the buyback system is not fool proof, and could further complicate the issue.
“There is already a system in place to recycle plastic. What we need to do is make it more efficient and profitable for the stakeholders (such as rag pickers), instead of introducing more processes in the ecosystem of recycling further,” said Ramesh Chauhan chairman at Bisleri, market leader in the packaged water category.
A PepsiCo spokesperson said the company has started mentioning a recycle value of Rs 15 per kg of PET waste on its products sold in Maharashtra. “We are working with Gem Enviro to set up reverse vending machines, collection points and collection centres for PET waste bottles at several locations across the state to enable the buyback programme,” the person said.
Maharashtra enforced a ban on PET bottles smaller than 200 ml and other single use disposable plastic items in late June and gave users three months to come up with alternatives following mounting concerns over plastic waste.
Dr Vijay Habbu, faculty and expert in sustainability and technical advisor to plastic associations said: “The issue of plastic pollution cannot be resolved in singular steps and requires holistic solutions. Unless the the role of plastics in medical, food, pharmaceutical and related industries is understood, the messaging about pollution will always lead to unreasonable action. In taking easy steps of imposing wholesale bans, India loses opportunities to set global examples of managing plastic waste.”
The buyback value printing drive, which Maharashtra introduced as part of its efforts to check plastic pollution, is expected to spill over to other states, with many such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand also hinting at implementing similar plastic use restrictions.
Industry insiders said there is a lack of clarity on where the bottles can be returned — at retailers or at collection centres. If they are redeemed for a charge at retailers, the latter can return the empty bottles to recyclers.
“While the cost of printing is nominal, it is restrictive because we can’t supply bottles made in Maharashtra to any other state, and neither can we bring and sell bottles from outside the state,” a beverage industry official said, requesting not to be named.
Over the past four months, there have been three changes in the plastic ban covering PET bottles in Maharashtra, among the country's five largest consumer states. The state has amended norms for the ban on plastic packaging three times since March.
Industry players, however, insist the solution to deal with plastic waste lies in adopting technology in collaboration with all stakeholders, be it more efficient recycling techniques and solutions or coming up with viable and affordable biodegradable alternatives to plastic.