The plastic industry has made significant progress since its promising beginning in India in 1957. It all started with the production of polystyrene and today the industry has grown into diverse sectors at a rapid pace.
The industry spans the country and employs around 4 million people. It has more than 30,000 processing units, 85-90% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMSE). And when it comes to exports, it hosts more than 2,000 exporters.
Here’s how the numbers look…
India exported plastic raw materials worth US$ 3.29 billion in the financial year 2020-21 (FY21). Plastic sheets, films, and plates export value was at US$ 1.53 billion, while that of packaging materials stood at US$ 863.6 million.
So, there’s no doubt the industry is doing a good job in getting some overseas business. And it will continue to do so if we take a look at government’s future goals for the industry.
The Union Minister believes the Indian plastic industry will take the sector from the current level of around Rs 3 lakh crores of economic activity to Rs 10 lakh crores in around 4 to 5 years.
The Minister said that this would be a national service from the plastics industry and it will create at least 1 to 1.5 crore jobs, which is what the country needs today.
While this is impressive, the growth would also entail environmental costs.
Plastic waste utilization is one of the largest issues facing our world today. It has become one of the most important environmental and ethical issues. Single-use plastics such as food wrappers, plastic bags and beverage bottles are filling the landfills, rivers with increasing speed, and they simply cannot be broken down fast enough.
But it seems the plastic industry is seeing light at the end of the tunnel, all thanks to the Iron and Steel industry.
What has iron and steel got to do with plastic, you ask?
The iron and steel industry can help in reducing the plastic waste by utilizing it in various manufacturing processes like Blast Furnace Iron making, Coke Making, Electric Arc Furnace Steel making, etc.
The Minister of Steel sees this as an opportunity to convert plastic waste into wealth. The Ministry expects 1 kg of plastic use to replace around 1.3 kg of coal that’s been used in iron and steel manufacturing processes.
This is achievable given that India’s iron and steel industry has potential to consume around 2 to 3 million tonnes (MT) of plastic waste every year based on the present capacity and over 8 MT by 2030-31.
India currently consumes around 18 million tonnes of plastic every year. And this is said to increase in the coming years.
As that happens, the iron and steel industry will come out as one of the best end users of plastic in the most environment friendly manner.
Sources: IBEF, Press Information Bureau, Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS)
Reference links: Press Information Bureau
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