Maharashtra allows plastic packaging for milk pouches for now

Plastic film manufacturers' next meeting with state environment minister on 15 February 2019

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It is a big relief for milk consumers in Maharashtra as the government has agreed to take a lenient view and allow the use of plastic pouches for packaging of milk until further notice. While the plastic ban in Mumbai was welcomed by the people and environmentalists in general, the condition of recycling enforced on those manufacturing plastic bags for packaged milk caused an alarming shortage of milk in the maximum city.

Manufacturers were not ready to take the entire responsibility of preparing and following the extended producers’ responsibility because they only supply films to dairies which then make milk pouches. As per rules, manufacturers or producers must submit the EPR plan, including modalities of a waste collection system, to the urban development department for approval. The Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers’ Association in a letter to dairies conveyed its decision to suspend supply of plastic films in view of ongoing actions against the industry. The decision was taken for not preparing an extended producers responsibility by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.

Maharashtra’s dairy sector had threatened to suspend sale of milk in plastic pouches from 15 December 2018, resulting the state environment minister Ramdas Kadam to call a meeting of the dairy sector to find a solution on this issue. The meeting was attended by dairy representatives, dairy development minister and environment department officials to resolve issues related to EPR and use of pouches. Kadam made it clear that the department has not banned plastic manufacturers from supplying plastic film for packaging of milk and therefore the dairy sector should continue to supply milk in pouches as before.

Kadam said milk suppliers have only been told to ensure a proper ‘buyback’ scheme of used pouches, which they have not yet done. He said that milk pouches must have a deposit of 50 paise to Rs 1 each, and once empty, they have to be returned by customers for recycling in lieu of the deposit.

But that is not being done. The state government has given two months extension to set a recycling mechanism for the used pouches. The next meeting has been scheduled for 15 February 2019 with the dairy sector, plastic film manufacturers and the environment department officials to take stock of the situation and discuss ways and means to overcome the extended producer responsibility issue.