With a ban on most plastic articles in place, Mumbaikars took a close look at their choices. An expo was arranged in the city to help them choose alternatives: starch bags and spoons, compostable bags and wooden cutlery.
The three-day exhibition organised by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) drew some 5,000 visitors, who came in spite of the damp weather. Most were ready to make the switch, but found the green choices expensive.
Maharashtra’s notification bans plastic bags with or without handles, as well as disposable products such as single-use dishes, containers, cutlery and cups, among other things.
At the exhibition, the 100 stalls put up by companies and self-help groups showed visitors compostable bags priced at Rs. 100 to Rs. 140 for a bundle of 100, compared to the Rs. 70 they paid so far for 10 inch by 14 inch standard size plastic bags.
“We make compostable bags out of vegetable starch. The starch is easily available, but the process is long and it increases cost,” said Mohammed Sadiq, CEO of Biogreen Eco-products. “We got a good response from visitors, many of whom were retailers and restaurant owners,” he added, estimating his cutlery orders at 50 tonnes. Starch spoons cost about twice as much as plastic ones. “The government has imposed a blanket ban on all plastic cutlery, including those with a mix of corn starch and plastic. Across the world, this combination is accepted as an alternative since 100% cornstarch products are expensive. In India, few factories manufacture the raw material or wooden cutlery,” Anil Agarwal, owner of Pappco Greenware said.
A plastic spoon used to cost a rupee but a wooden one sells for Rs. 2. Cornstarch plates are sold for Rs. 1 to Rs. 6.