Plastic ban may leave a bitter taste for food delivery

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The industry believes PM Modi could announce a ban on single-use plastic materials on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

 India’s food services delivery business, the fastest-growing segment of the Rs 4-lakh-crore food and beverages industry, faces higher operating costs and the likelihood of disruption as the country considers banning single-use plastic materials from next month.

“We may stop delivery of items temporarily if a sweeping ban is announced on October 2,” said SS Aggarwal, managing director of Bikanervala Foods that operates more than 50 restaurants across India. “We are exploring all possible options, but it takes time to put these in place, and will resume delivery when we find other options.”

Aggarwal said that there must be viable alternatives to the cost-effective material the industry has hitherto used to help drive an eating-out culture, particularly in urban India. Restaurant chains believe that existing alternatives to plastic are more expensive, while aggregators said they are working with research focused startups to provide viable, eco-friendly options to kitchens they have enrolled.

The industry believes Prime Minister Narendra Modi could announce a ban on single use plastic materials on October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

Hit on bottom lines
The curbs will likely cover all packaging materials, including bags, cups, containers and straws.

While 18 states have already banned plastic carry bags, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have also banned single-use plastic cutlery, plates, cups and straws.

Restaurant chains ET spoke with said the lack of affordable alternatives for delivering gravy-based or non-dry foods (such as curries or dairy) could raise delivery costs three or four times. The alternatives being considered are earthen pots and cups, or containers made from thick paper or permissible and reusable expensive plastic.

In the current environment, restaurants can’t pass on additional packaging costs to consumers. About 20,000 units closed last fiscal year after the industry failed to secure input tax credits, even as competition from discounted delivery platforms became more intense.

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