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Issue 34
, 2012
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IIP growth comes gift-wrapped in plastic

Piyali Mandal
Source: Business Standard, Date: , 2012

It may be an environmental nuisance, but when stacked up by the ministry of statistics on the IIP list, the plastic bag becomes a driving factor for industrial growth. The growth in polythene bags emerged a contributory factor in the positive November IIP (industrial production index) numbers.

IIP numbers saw 5.9 per cent growth in November.
Strong output numbers in coal, cement, electricity and refinery products drove the IIP growth. Another factor was 13 per cent growth in consumer goods. Within consumer goods, polythene bags grew 34.7 per cent in November and contributed favourably to the overall index.
Interestingly, the contribution of polythene bags increased in November from October despite a complete ban on the use of plastic bags in as many as 10 states, including Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Goa. In October, the contribution of plastic bags was not known, but the sub-index of consumer non-durables displayed negative growth of 1.3 per cent. In September, the contribution of polythene bags grew 32 per cent.

"The growth in plastic bags could be because of the retail boom in India. Most retailers use plastic bags. So, most of the demand is consumer driven," said a senior representative of industry chamber Ficci. Industry body CII reiterated the view that most of the demand was from small retailers and shopkeepers, who did not prefer alternative materials for plastic bags.

Representatives of non-profit organization, Toxics Link, said, "It is very difficult to wean small-time sellers away from plastic bags. The alternative jute and paper bags are expensive. Though large corporations and retailers have started using paper bags or charging consumers for jute bags, it will take time for people to move away from plastic."

Commenting on the growth figure, an environment ministry official said, "There is no blanket ban on plastic bags across the country. In some states, plastic bags of a certain thickness are allowed. We have monitoring agencies in place to check whether manufacturers are producing plastic bags below a certain thickness."

According to Rajiv Betne, senior project coordinator for Toxics Link, "Though the government has already imposed a complete ban on polythene bags in some states and a partial ban in others, monitoring and implementation is a big challenge. The sector is very unorganized. There are around 25,000-30,000 small plastic manufacturers in the country and to monitor whether they manufacture plastic bags of a certain thickness is an uphill task."

The All India Plastic Industries Association’s secretary general V P Bhardwaj said, "The numbers go to show the popularity of plastic bags among consumers."

Asked about the resulting environmental problems caused by the increased use of plastic bags, he said, "Plastic bags do not cause environmental pollution per se. The problem is created by careless littering of plastic bags."