Prime Minister Narendra Modi s call for a ban on the use of single-use plastic has put state dairies in a fix as they are still looking for an economical alternative to plastic pouches. While the Maharashtra government banned single-use plastic months ago, a concrete plan for recycling and buying back milk pouches is yet to take a concrete shape.
Back in December 2018, when the state government had banned single-use plastic, dairies which sell milk in plastic pouches were asked to sign extended producer responsibility with plastic manufacturers for recycling the pouches. But the plan failed to yield the desired result, given the lukewarm response from consumers.
Then, in a bid to recycle the pouches, dairies started printing buyback prices on their milk pouches but lacked the technical know-how on what to do with them after buying them back. Eventually, dairies agreed on a buyback policy, but the end-customers are yet to warm up to the scheme.
On an average, nearly 10 crore milk pouches are sold per day in India, and Pune reports the sale of approximately 16 lakh pouches.
In Maharashtra, the Pune Municipal Corporation and state dairies are expected to come up with a recycling plant for milk pouches but the proposal is still on paper. The dairies are yet to get any directive in this regard, said Prakash Kutwal, secretary of the Milk Producers and Processors Welfare Association.
Replacing pouches with glass or PET bottles was both uneconomical and unviable, and these factors will drive up the cost for consumers, said dairies.
Milk pouches are made of superior-quality single layer-plastic which are 100 per cent recyclable, said R S Sodhi, managing director of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, the owner of the brand Amul.
As a company, we have already put in place an ecosystem for recycling milk pouches, he said. But, to implement a smooth buyback scheme, various stakeholders have to be involved.
The Sangli-based Chitale Dairy had unveiled a buyback plan, but the response from customers was not very positive. The dairy is going to relaunch the programme in Pune on Saturday after taking all the stakeholders into consideration, said Girish Chitale, a partner in the dairy. There is already a system for recycling the pouches. What we plan to do is be part of the system to make it more efficient, he said.