Any alternatives, such as attaching a paper straw or redesigning the juice box into a tear-seal-and-drink option, may force these companies to drop their preferred affordable price of ₹10 per unit. Additionally, many of these companies struggle to source paper straws locally and are forced to import from countries like Indonesia, China, Malaysia, and Finland. “There is no sustainable alternative to integrated plastic straws available in the country today. We are therefore working on importing paper straws…Importing paper straws would also have financial implications for companies and would lead to a loss of revenue for the public treasury”, said Mohit Malhotra, CEO of
which manufactures the “Real” fruit juice brand.
Parle Agro, maker of the Frooti brand, called on the government to postpone the implementation of the ban for at least six months. CEO Schauna Chauhan says a postponement of the ban will allow packaging companies to build the right infrastructure needed to source paper straws locally. “Even getting approvals from regulators after proper testing to make paper straws will take time. Although the transition process has already begun, the short timeframe is a matter of great concern,” she said. .
In August 2021, the Ministry of the Environment had notified plastic waste management rules, banning single-use plastic from July 2022. The ban covers plastic plates, cups and cutlery, packaging covers , PVC streamers, stirrers, headphones with plastic sticks, candy sticks, flag sticks and cigarette pack wrappers.
While the food industry has seamlessly switched to disposable wooden cutlery (mostly made from bamboo) passing the extra cost on to end customers, beverage makers are concerned about the higher costs they could incur. during the transition. The percentage cost increase, according to Parle’s Chauhan, is about 122%.
“But if companies imported the straws, the cost would increase by 259% and 278% for PLA and paper straws respectively,” she said.
PLA straws fall under bioplastics, as they are made from corn starch and are fully compostable.
India produces and sells a total of 6 billion juice boxes (with plastic straws attached) every year. Dabur, Parle Agro, Coca Cola (Maaza brand) and Pepsico (Tropicana) sell nearly 60% of their fruit juices in small packages, according to industry estimates.
“The Rs 10 price offers wafer-thin margins for beverage makers, but it helps them connect with a wider customer base,” said Chaitanya Kalia, partner and head of sustainability practice at consultancy EY. . “At this price and in this quantity, beverage manufacturers will find it difficult to introduce a greener alternative. The industry must find innovative solutions to protect the environment,” he added. According to Parle Agro, 1.3 million PLA or paper straws are produced daily in India, compared to a daily requirement of 6 million straws.
Beyond cold drink manufacturers, dairy companies are also using cardboard boxes with straws to sell their products. A few pharmaceutical companies also have products (like ORS drinks) that are sold in cardboard boxes with straws attached.
“The industry doesn’t want to sell juice boxes without straws because that would kill the goal of serving the drink in a clean carton,” said Praveen Aggarwal, CEO of Action Alliance for Recycling, which lobbies for Pepsico, Coca-Cola and others.
“If the straws are not attached, consumers will use pen tips, pins or nails to open their juice box. This can be a bad customer experience,” he added.
Coffee chains like Starbucks provide paper straws to their customers, but these have a larger diameter (6-8 mm). The challenge would be to make paper straws of smaller diameter (3-4 mm), which would not collapse after being submerged in a drink for a few minutes.
Plastic straw manufacturers are in wait-and-see mode. They hope the government can extend the ban for at least a few months. But a call from beverage makers a few months ago fell on deaf ears. There is a good chance that the ban will come into effect from July.
“More than a thousand products are made from single-use plastic; straw and plastic cutlery are just a small part of it. The share of plastic straw in environmental degradation is very less…so simply banning plastic cutlery will not help in any way,” said Rajesh Domadiya, owner of Aditya Plastic Industries, a large manufacturer of plastic straw.
“The government didn’t give much thought to the ban…but it put several industries in trouble. We are trying to make biodegradable PLA straws… But it might take some time before we set up our production units,” he added.