After the plastic bags replaced reusable cloth bags for grocery shopping, another dangerous trend is about to unveil A few days back an Indian multinational conglomerate ITC announced the launch of hand sanitizers in sachet bags priced at half a Rupee ($0.0066) and meant for single use. As part of our research, we found many other brands that are offering sachet hand sanitizers – available extensively online.
Nothing against such companies, to leverage sachet bags to offer hand sanitizers for a large section of the population which would otherwise find it difficult to afford Rs 70-80 (~ $1) for 100 ml of sanitizer bottle – makes perfect business sense.
As per World Bank “3 billion people around the world who do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home” and “47 percent of schools lack handwashing facilities with water and soap, affecting 900 million school-age children. And in 16 percent of healthcare facilities, there are no handwashing facilities” – cleaning hands with hand sanitizer becomes a suitable bet against fighting the global pandemic.
Sanitizers available in sachet bags could become the next big phenomenon — Offering convenience, affordability, and water substitute.
The ecological impact goes unnoticed in these circumstances. The sachet bags is one of the smallest pieces of plastic which easily get dumped in the open environment and are mingled with soil then floats down the drains to rivers to oceans. Due to its tiny size, the sachet packets are one of the worst cloggers of the ocean coastline. An estimated 100 million marine animals die each year due to discarded plastic.
Sachet business is not new, more than 35 years ago, in 1983 CavinKare introduced this innovative packaging concept in India by introducing its Chik shampoo in small sachets for Rs 1 ($0.013).
Many other FMCG companies joined the bandwagon and sachets became a popular mode of product distribution in the haircare, skincare, food segment. Due to affordability and convenience, in addition to shampoos, there are other multitudes of products available in these small sachets – soaps, face creams, face wash, hair color, toothpaste and not to forget, sauces, coffee powders, tobacco, candies and even drinking water.
While the effectiveness of small sachets bags cannot be ignored – they are surely an easy and convenient way of distribution. The larger point is – the horrors of plastic contamination on our ecology and biodiversity – that is simply catastrophic.
Research has shown that single-serve plastic packaging made the bulk of litter in our water bodies and the packaging of products manufactured by large FMCG giants was the most represented in the piles of garbage.
The need of the hour is for the multinational giants to come out with better solutions. Some of which could include –
- Reducing the reliance on sachets bags and single-use plastic packaging – investing in alternative delivery systems – like using biodegradable materials, or home refill service
- Large companies also need to collaborate with startups and small companies that are working on creating sustainable packaging. Most times the niche company will come up with a better solution than the R&D wing of a big corporate.
- Introduce non-plastic based packaging, probably paper, glass, or metal-based wherever applicable.
- Reduce virgin plastic (new plastic made from oil) packaging and instead use recycled materials
- In a world where only 14% of the plastic packaging makes its way to recycling plants, it becomes pertinent for companies to encourage consumers to return the plastic after use – such that effective waste disposal can happen.
There is some action on the ground as well. Nestle, Unilever – the world’s biggest consumer brands and most prominent contributors to ocean plastic, both the companies have made a commitment to make 100% of packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.
Last, until the time these sachet bags see their end, we as consumers of products need to be better responsible for our ways and methods of disposing of the plastic after use.