India is banning single-use plastics. Here’s what that means for your business’s supply chain.

Are you currently operating (or have plans to operate) a business in India? Then you probably already know that India recently announced a ban on single-use plastics (SUP) by 2022. 

The ban will have a considerable impact on supply chains, as managers have to now look for plastic-free alternatives within their procurement process to comply with the new policy. This means that for your business to continue operating in India, you need to start sourcing sustainably. Additionally, the policy affects consumers’ spending habits, now that they will likely prioritise other types of products that are plastic-free. 

One of the factors behind implementing the SUP ban is to reduce plastic pollution in India. In 2021, the Centre for Science and Environment reported that seven states in India contribute nearly 66% of the country’s total plastic waste. Moreover, the cities of Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadul, Karnataka, and West Bengal generated 48% of the total plastic waste in the country. 

Because of these alarming rates of waste production, the country will ban the manufacturing, importing, stocking, distributing, selling, and using of identified SUP items by July 1, 2022. The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules generally define SUP as “a plastic commodity intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled.”

These are some of the single-use plastic items included in the ban:

  • Cotton buds with plastic sticks
  • Plastic sticks for balloons
  • Plastic flags
  • Candy and ice cream sticks
  • Polystyrene for decorations
  • Plastic cups, plates, spoons, forks 
  • Plastic coffee stirrers
  • Plastic straws
  • Wrapping or packing films of sweet boxes
  • Invitation cards made with plastic
  • Cigarette packets
  • Plastic or PVC banners of less than 100-micron thickness

Also, starting September 30, 2021, permitted plastic bags must be 75 microns thick, and by December 31, 2022, that figure will increase, when permitted plastic bags must have a thickness of at least 120 microns. 

India is not the only one looking at sustainability, either. Globally, dozens of retail giants have started integrating sustainable sourcing into their daily operations. There are now over 60 countries that have banned or curbed their use of plastics. Some governments are also imposing taxes and fees to discourage the use of plastics, including Germany, Denmark, Australia, Taiwan, Kenya, France, and Morocco.

In fact, Tesco, the United Kingdom’s biggest supermarket, aimed to remove one billion pieces of plastics from their products by the end of 2020. This decision is another step for them, as they will no longer partner with suppliers who don’t have recyclable packaging.

So, how do these bans on SUP items affect businesses? Beyond that, how can you ensure business continuity in your supply chains, regardless if you’re currently working with India or not?

Impacts of Single-Use Plastics Ban on the Supply Chain

Plastic is the most popular material in today’s world. Due to its versatility, affordability, and durability, plastic products are found in various sectors. We use them in clothing, construction, machinery, and even agriculture. Because of this, supply chains will likely experience the following impacts with the ban of SUP items:

Impact on the Distribution Industry

As governments and international organizations start to ban the use of SUPs due to their health and environmental hazards, individuals and businesses will have to reduce levels of SUPs in all areas. With the growing number of governments implementing a ban or taxes and fees on single-use plastics, the distribution industry now needs to work with suppliers who can provide high-quality, sustainable products. 

The distribution industry uses a great deal of plastic in packaging to transport products. Goods are often wrapped in bubble wrap, plastic wrap, and padded envelopes before they are sent to wholesalers and customers. Unfortunately, none of these plastics can be recycled, because they are often mixed with other kinds of material. As a result, almost all are disposed of after one use. From storage to delivery, SUPs are widely used to protect goods within the supply chain.

Impact on E-Commerce

Apart from manufacturers, the proposed government’s ban will also have a great impact on e-commerce giants such as Amazon India and Flipkart. Not only do they sell SUP items and other plastic materials, but they also use them to pack and protect their goods for delivery. 

The challenge is now for E-commerce platforms to find alternative solutions that are resilient enough to pack and protect their products. Sustainable alternatives will still need to be used to make sure there’s no damage to parcels during delivery. 

Impact for Fashion Retailers

When it comes to clothing brands, the fashion industry relies heavily on plastic to protect garments and hosiery materials during transport. Retailers use transparent plastic to pack expensive saris and plastic sheets for bales to protect them from dust and water. 

With the ban of single-use plastics, garment retailers have to find another way to protect their expensive fabrics and maintain their quality. They will need to switch to suppliers who can meet their packaging demands with the use of sustainable materials. 

These are just a few industries that will experience significant impacts with India’s new policy against the use of plastics. With all of these policies affecting the supply chain, businesses in India will need to look for alternatives before the policy gets implemented next year.

Finding Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics

As a supply chain manager, you likely often focus more on pricing and specifications when choosing materials. Many rarely consider their environmental impacts. Now, you need to also prioritise eco-friendly materials that will help achieve sustainability goals without compromising financial targets. 

You also need to thoroughly evaluate all your suppliers to ensure that they are compliant with the policy change. Otherwise, your company faces business risks due to India’s ban. 

One way to start eliminating SUP in your supply chain is by using sustainable packaging and items in your material production. Here are some alternatives to the SUPs that India is proposing to ban by 2022:

  • Plastic cotton buds: Bamboo cotton buds, reusable ear cleaner 
  • Cutlery: Wooden chopsticks, reusable wooden utensils
  • Plastic Flags: Using fabric when producing flags

Let’s look at how you can adjust your processes within the supply chain to meet these challenges.

Packaging

Look into suppliers that offer plant-based bioplastics that are durable and biodegradable. Durable bioplastics are an alternative to traditional PET bottles. Biodegradable plastics are those created with renewable materials, such as mushrooms, biodegradable air peanuts, and cornstarch used for packaging. 

For internal packaging, businesses are currently using bubble wraps or air pillows as shock absorbers to protect their products during delivery. You can look to big distribution companies like Amazon for inspiration, where they replaced plastic in their internal packaging with brown paper to fill the spaces in delivery boxes. 

Storage 

Not only are plastics widely used in protecting products from damages during storage, but they are also often used in warehouses. To eliminate the use of plastics while storing your products, you can source boxes made of 100% recycled cards or paper. That will ensure that they are good for recycling after use. 

Retailers must also change the way they store garments in warehouses to remove the need for protective plastic packaging. Instead of plastic, look into using sealed boxes to protect garments from dust until picked up for shipping or delivery. 

Delivery 

During delivery, businesses use plastic to prevent damages to their products. An alternative to this is to use boxes that perfectly fit your products, thereby minimizing the need for plastic packaging. As a supply chain manager, consider switching to packaging like boxes with shock-absorbent qualities. These will offer protection during shipping and remain recyclable after use. 

Alternative Solutions to Consider

There are also new technological advancements for supply chains to do things sustainably, based on academic research, new policymaking, and consumer insights. 

To ensure business continuity in India and other countries implementing the plastic ban, you will have to start investing in technology and software that allow you to transition your supply chain to a sustainable one, seamlessly. Partnering with companies that are transparent in their business operations and have humane labor conditions is the first step in achieving your sustainable targets.

Benefits of Reducing Single-Use Plastics in Your Supply Chain 

Aside from following the new policies, employing better and sustainable alternatives can help manage overall costs. Integrating sustainability in your supply chain has its additional benefits that ensure the longevity of your business operations, in India and elsewhere.

Here are some of the savings you’ll see by eliminating plastic in your business operations: 

  • Lower Labor Costs: Handling waste on-site costs time, energy, and human resources as it includes cleaning, collecting, transporting, and removing waste from your facility. By using biodegradable alternatives, this will save you labor costs. 
  • Supply Chain Efficiency: when you improve the life-cycle of your products, you can increase transparency throughout the supply chain and reduce costs. This will lead to increased efficiency in general as well as new opportunities for improvement.
  • Take Advantage of New Opportunities: Consumers worldwide are becoming more aware of the environmental impacts of the products they buy and consume. By catering to the growing demand for environmentally-friendly products, you can develop your customer base and increase your cash flow. 

As more governments implement plastic bans worldwide, changing your operations to a sustainable one can help lessen its impacts on your business. Avoid any costly business disruptions by starting to source sustainably as early as possible—then you won’t have to scramble to change your operations when new taxes and fees come into play. 

Sustainable Sourcing for Business Continuity 

The world is creating significant strides in becoming more sustainable through legal policies. Your response should be to transform your sourcing practices into sustainable ones. All businesses across all industries must start looking for new, sustainable alternatives to plastic, and integrate them into their supply chains before more plastic bans begin.

As India prohibits single-use plastics, now is the time to source sustainably and minimize the risks of business disruptions. Doing so will ensure your business thrives in India and other countries with similar plans for banning SUPs. Besides, sustainable sourcing is not only good for compliance with legal policies; it also helps in developing great relationships with your consumers and partners, resulting in better profits and business continuity. 

Are you ready to start sourcing sustainably but don’t have any idea where to start? Our team in Good for Life is fully prepared to guide you on eliminating plastic in your procurement process. 

We can provide you with a network of suppliers across the world, committed to delivering high-quality and SUP-free materials for your products. 

Get in touch with us today to take a step towards sustainable sourcing!