Maharashtra plastic ban: Return Pepsi, Coca Cola pet bottles and get your money back!

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Maharashtra plastic ban: Return Pepsi, Coca Cola pet bottles and get your money back!

Under this scheme, a predefined buyback price would have to be mandatorily printed on larger PET/PETE bottles.

Top beverage companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Bisleri, have begun printing a buyback value on all PET bottles sold in Maharashtra. Most companies have settled on Rs 15 per kg for PET bottles, and Rs 5 per kg for shrink wraps.

"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," a PepsiCo spokesperson told the Economic Times, adding that the company has started mentioning a recycle value of Rs 15 per kg of PET waste on its products sold in the state.

The state, in March, enforced a state-wide ban on the manufacture, use, sale, distribution and storage of single-use plastic items, including carry bags, disposable plates and cutlery and even thermocol. However, a month later, the state government lifted the ban on small plastic bottles, while announcing a buyback scheme for bigger bottles.

Under this scheme, a predefined buyback price would have to be mandatorily printed on larger PET/PETE bottles. Though the government authorised manufacturers to determine these prices, it had recommended a buyback price of Rs 1 over the MRP for bottles with a capacity of 1 litre or more and Rs 2 extra for bottles of over 200 ml. However, customers who return the plastic bottles to shopkeepers would be refunded the amount printed on them as per the scheme.

But the scheme is already drawing criticism from stakeholders. To begin with, there is a lack of clarity on where the bottles can be returned - at retailers or at collection centres. "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 pointed out.

Other industry insiders have cautioned that 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," Ramesh Chauhan chairman at Bisleri, market leader in the packaged water category, told the daily.

Many manufacturers also seem to be struggling with a roadmap to achieve this goal. Earlier this month the state government was compelled to delay implementation of the buyback scheme when not a single local manufacturer managed to submit its plans for the collection/recycling of plastic bottles by the previous deadline of July 11.

Nonetheless, Maharashtra's buyback value printing initiative has already caught the attention of several other states. The report added that Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, among others, have started hinting at implementing similar plastic use restrictions.

But many more will have to take part in the drive against plastic pollution if India is to achieve what Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan pledged on the occasion of the World Environment Day in June. "We make a solemn pledge that by 2022 we shall eliminate all single-use plastics from our beautiful country," he had declared.

But going by the country's track record so far, this seems nothing more than a pipe dream. In a 2015 report, the Central Pollution Control Board had stated that Indian cities produced more than 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day.Domestic consumption of plastic is expected to reach 20 million metric tonnes per year by 2020, despite the fact that half of India's states and union territories have already introduced a blanket ban on plastic bags at the very least.

With agency inputs