The Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry is the 4th largest in the Indian Economy. By its nature, the industry includes goods which are produced, marketed, sold and consumed rapidly – cycle time being at its minimum. Thus, also arises the need to package it not only with utmost safety but also at the lowest possible manufacturing cost due to large manufacturing volume. How can stringent measures of plastic neutrality among the companies operating in the FMCG sector can help save the planet? Let us take a look at some facts and figures.
How does the World and India Fare with Plastic Waste and Pollution?
The World Plastic Pollution
In the last 50 years, the world plastic production has increased 200 times from around 2 MT/year to about 400 MT/year today. And it has been steadily growing at an alarming rate of 15 MT/year.
While the usage of plastic has been growing over the years, efforts are being made to find ways to recycle waste. The result, however, is not too encouraging. Below are the statistics by Geyser et al (year 2010) –
- Plastic Produced in the world – 381 MT
- Recycled – 74 MT (19%)
- Burned – 97 MT (25%)
- Discarded – 210 MT (56%)
India at a Glance – Plastic Pollution
Some startling “plastic” facts about India
- India is one of the few countries in the world that generates less than 100 gms of plastic per person per day. (Germany, Guyana, Ireland, Kuwait, USA, New Zealand generate more than 300 gms of plastic per person per day
- India ranks 15th in the world for total plastic waste generated in a year
- 85% of the plastic waste generated in India is littered
- India ranks 5th in the world (just behind China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia) among the highest plastic litterers of the globe amounting to 2% of the world’s total mismanaged plastic waste
While per capita consumption of plastic in India is low, the amount of plastic waste generated is huge and largely remains untreated.
A quick look at the industry statistics reveals that the Packaging industry produces the maximum amount of waste –
FMCG sector is biggest contributor to the packaging plastic waste generated. Statistics reveal that – In 2014, >95% of the total number of biscuits, dried processed food items and hair care products; and >85% of dairy products, baked goods, laundry and skin care sold in India were packaged in plastic.
According to the government reports –
- India generates 10 MT per year of plastic waste per year from the FMCG sector
- India’s recycling rate is now at 60% against the global average of 20%
While these statistics do not align to that of some independent research reports, the bottomline remains that with growing usage of plastic, it is time that the companies operating in the FMCG sector start putting up efforts to help India achieve its goal to become plastic neutral by 2022.
Stepping Stone – Being Plastic Neutral
Before the Prime Minister’s speech on October 2nd 2019 about eliminating the usage of single use plastic ,more than 20 FMCG companies pledged to become plastic neutral by 2022. This included companies like Hindustan Unilever, Dabur, ITC, Kelloggs, Mother Dairy, Nestle, Modelez, Pepsico India, Bisleri, Coca-Cola India, among others. Below are some of the statements by the leading FMCG companies
Recently, Nestle announced that two of its biggest brands – Maggi Noodles and Kitkat – to go plastic neutral by Dec, 2019. Reporting doubt digit profits in the the last quarter, this commitment from Nestle comes as a welcome change effective within a span of just 2 months.
While efforts are being made to eliminate the use of plastic in the FMCG sector, there is a need to find innovative solutions in packaging industry. The current usage of plastic is one of the cheapest and effective way to help reduce the commodity prices thereby helping the masses esp in the rural areas. With growing concerns on environment and subsequent upcoming ban on plastic usage completely, it needs to be seen how will the companies operating in the packaging sector help curtail prices by using alternative means of packaging. Questions have also been raised on the livelihood of people working in this sector.
While there are many questions to answer and a long way ahead, one thing remains clear – environmental consciousness has reached the right personnel and we will definitely come up with innovative solutions in the near future to address questions pertaining to an alterntive packaging material that is const effective.