The plastic industry is NO LONGER in denial

VIANaresh Khanna
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plastic waste

At the Elite Conference on Specialty Films and Flexible Packaging held in September 2017, the plastic industry threatened by the Indian government’s Plastic Waste Control Order of 2016 was still in denial. In answer to a pointed question from the floor about the impending implementation of the PWCO-2016, industry leaders were, in the main, silent, circumspect or in denial. They tried to obfuscate the issue by hoping that the order, like many others, would be diluted or simply go away.

By the time of the PlastIndia exhibition in Gandhinagar in February 2018, some state pollution control boards had begun issuing notices to flexible packaging converters based on the PWCO-2016. The impending Maharashtra state government ban on plastic packaging was on the horizon but there was still no public acknowledgement from the leaders of the plastic and plastic packaging industry of the gravity of the issues that needed to be tackled.

However, these were being addressed or worked on, albeit behind closed doors. The new PWCO-2018 order issued on 27 March 2018 brought relief, stating that almost types of plastic packaging can continue as they simply are because they have an ‘alternate’ use, such as being used for heat energy. Nevertheless, the issue of state government orders, including those of Maharashtra, in spite of some concessions, remain.

The Elite Plus Conference on Injection, Blow, Roto & Pet Molding – leadership on plastic waste and recycling

Happily, the Elite Conference in early July 2018 in Mumbai was more than just a conference on plastic extrusion and molding. Authoritative presentations on the economy, polymers, extrusion and molding technology, packaging design and innovation, plastic waste collection and recycling were made. Moreover, it was clear from the content and tone of the conference that the plastic industry in India is no longer in denial.

Presenters and panellists included Rajkiran Madangopal, the chief operating officer of Banyan Nation, a company that has built a scalable plastic waste collection and up-recycling operation in South India, and Varun Sanghavi, CMO, Maharashtra government. Several speakers including the Denmark-based anthropologist Guari Pathak, made clear that plastic waste collection and recycling is not merely a bad public relations issue but a deeper and more profound trust deficit facing the plastic raw material, brand owner and converting industry. The trust deficit can only be resolved by concerted action with improved materials, separation at source of waste and meaningful recycling and not by the conversion of plastic waste to energy.

It is hoped that the Elite Plus Global Summit 2018 on Speciality Films and Flexible Packaging taking place on 4 and 5 September 2018 in Mumbai will also present concrete actions taken and proven technologies and methods of collecting and recycling plastic waste. As the presentations in the recent plastic extrusion and molding conference indicated, the economy is healthy in the long term even though there may be great volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) on the horizon. It seems that the industry is finding new leadership–a mixture of industrial power and interest combined with youth, global commitment, scientific action and social commitment.

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