Where To Now For Consumers in India?

Where To Now For Consumers in India?

This is the sixth and final piece of a collection of articles written for Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India dedicated to discussing plastic bans in India, all relating to the plastic announcement that was expected to be made on October 2nd 2019. The collection aims to discuss the enforcement of policies, design and innovation of new ideas and important steps that have already taken place that will assist in transitioning the country toward a new, more sustainable system along with other areas.


Throughout this collection of articles there has been a focus on understanding the benefits of plastic bans and announcements about the detrimental effects of this ubiquitous material. The history of the polymer has been discussed along with roadmaps forward. Additionally, the informal waste sector and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) have come into evaluation. Notably, throughout, the power that consumers hold and the restrictions they face has been evident especially in relation to understanding FMCG companies (source) and what benefits are available by becoming a conscious consumer.   


Fortunately consumers in India are being provided with sustainable options at a far greater scale from small and large businesses who are taking the need to move away from plastics as their core objective. 


Five simple steps that can help consumers to transition from the use of plastic are, first, using a bamboo toothbrush (source), second, using sustainable straws such as steel, bamboo or leaf (source). Third, minimising plastic use during menstrual hygiene can be assisted through the use of menstrual cups (source). Fourth, instead of using cling film plastics or aluminum foil to wrap products, beeswax wraps are now available providing an alternate option to consumers (source). While, fifth, a carry bag made of organic material can assist in reducing the impact of single use plastic bags (source).


Yet, these are simply opportunities because without industry heavyweights and small stakeholders being encouraged to move into R & D product development with measurable and accountable timelines more solutions and a full transition away from plastic in India may not be achieved (source). However, through a concerted effort from policy makers and consumers large brands will be encouraged to develop, and thereby benefits in new sustainable products can be created to be used and create a more earth friendly country. Currently the scale and use of plastic may discourage consumers to transition, yet there are policies already in place that can assist in protecting them.


The Consumer Protection Act, produced in 1986 “seeks to promote and protect the interest of consumers against deficiencies and defects in goods or services. It also seeks to secure the rights of a consumer against unfair or restrictive trade practices” (source). Policies such as these are in place in India and can help to ensure that large companies do transition. Consumers have a responsibility to request such an occurrence just as large FMCG producers, for example, have a responsibility and requirement to reduce the amount of plastic used. 


Consumers need to be critically aware of what they are buying and what material is used. There is a need to be involved and organised in the production and consumption system. Poignantly, consumers need to practice sustainable consumption themselves and be responsible to their environment (source).


The next steps for consumers need to be hand in hand with policy makers, with ministers at the top level of government and the bottom, with large FMCG producers, with waste pickers, and with their own neighbours, friends and relatives. The entire production, distribution and consumption system needs to be reviewed. Consumers are a vital cog in the transition. 


There is a need for greater levels of awareness, which government announcements can help to achieve. There is a need to utilise new sustainable options and to refuse plastic, which businesses are providing due to a demand. There is a need to constantly review the system, to keep it transparent and to know whether it is sustainable. There is a need for consumers to take responsibility for their habits pertaining to consumption, disposal and all other areas that today produce plastic waste. 


There is also a need for consumers to change their perspective on waste in order to value everything and everyone as a resource.