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Single-use plastic ban - Fossil fuel-based polymer demand may decline in India as processors shift to biodegradable/compostable raw materials

On Friday, June 24, 2022 at 05:40 IST

The implementation of the ban on single-use plastic (SUP) items from July 1 is likely to pull down India’s fossil fuel-based polymer demand as processors have started shifting to biodegradable or compostable alternatives by upgrading plants and machinery. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has already issued 200 licences to such manufacturers.

Despite the plastic processing industry urging the government to defer the implementation of the ban on SUP items for a short period to allow processors’ smooth shifting to the environment-friendly raw materials, MoEF&CC early this week issued directions to petrochemical companies to prevent polymer supply to SUP manufacturers. Also, the Finance Ministry on Wednesday ordered port authorities to restrict the import of polymer for the purpose of manufacturing SUP items. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is monitoring the progress of the implementation of the SUP ban closely.

IN DOLDRUMS

India’s pre-SUP ban polymer balance sheet (million tonnes)

Financial year (April-March)

Capacity

Production

Demand

Demand growth (%)

2018-19

13.11

12.05

14.85

9.5

2019-20

14.13

12.50

14.80

(-)0.3

2020-21

14.13

12.35

14.80

00

2021-22 (E)

14.69

13.54

16.62

12.3

2022-23 (E)

14.95

14.41

17.69

6.4

Source: Chemicals and Petrochemicals Manufacturers Association


The ban, however, is likely to render thousands of plastic processors belonging to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to shut down their shops and switch to other businesses on account of low financial muscle and borrowing capability. Apart from the immediate cost of plant upgradation, these processors require additional working capital due to the 30-40 percent higher cost of compostable or biodegradable polymers. To prevent this crisis in the plastic processing sector, the industry urged the government to defer the ban for a year and implement it in a phased manner instead of in one go.

“Shifting to biodegradable or compostable polymers for manufacturing environment-friendly materials is not a sustainable solution because of higher cost and availability issues. We would certainly see a blip in fossil fuel-based polymer demand for a short period until the market adjusts to the transition to biodegradable or compostable materials. But the quantum of decline and period of recovery cannot be ascertained at this stage,” said Chandrasekhar Rajagopalan, President, Indian Flexible Packaging & Folding Carton Manufacturers Association (formerly Paper Film & Foil Converters Association), to Polymerupdate.

Rajagopalan further added, “The ban on SUP items is a variable thing as banned products belong to different categories i.e. high density, low density, linear low density, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). So, the decline will vary depending upon the size of the current industry. Polymer demand anyway goes down during the monsoon season which is currently underway. But traders and stockists start preparations around this time for the festival season like Dussera and Diwali. These preparations will certainly be impacted.”

For PVC, for instance, hardly 2 percent of India’s annual output is used for the production of the banned SUP items including flags. Total annual PVC production in India is estimated at around 1.4 million tonnes, against the consumption of 3.5 million tonnes. Hence, around 60 percent of India’s PVC demand is met through imports.

“Being India a deficit country, the ban on SUP items will not have a major impact on the country’s PVC demand. But, it will certainly have a major impact on the demand for polypropylene and polyethylene going forward,” said a senior official working with one of India’s largest polymer-producing companies.

The apex industry body, the Chemicals and Petrochemicals Manufacturers Association (CPMA), in a pre-SUP ban analysis, forecast India’s overall polymer demand at 17.69 million tonnes as against their cumulative output of 14.41 million tonnes for the financial year 2022-23.

Meanwhile, the list of banned products includes earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, and polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration. Further, plates, cups glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straws, strays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers, etc made of plastics are also banned.

The amended Plastic Waste Management Rules mandate that carry bags made of virgin or recycled plastic shall not be less than 75 microns in thickness with effect from September 30, 2021, and 120 microns from December 31, 2022.

According to Rajagopalan, the plastics processors may not have too much quantity either of raw material or finished products stored as they were running operations only on a need-based basis to avoid any additional cost on inventory. “Also, high polymer prices in the last few months had prevented them from storage. Since March this year, plastic processors awaited polymer price decline and abstained from stocking amid expectations of further fall,” he added.


DILIP KUMAR JHA
Editor
dilip.jha@polymerupdate.com

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