Food Ministry Seeks Alternatives For Packaged Drinking Water
PepsiCo Aquafina water bottles are stacked in front of sodas. (Photographer: JB Reed/Bloomberg News)  

Food Ministry Seeks Alternatives For Packaged Drinking Water

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Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan asked manufacturers of packaged drinking water, like Pepsi and Coco-Cola, to come up with alternative packaging in the next three days as he favoured a ban on plastics because of its health and environmental impact.

He informed that an inter-ministerial committee, under the chairmanship of cabinet secretary, has been formed to look into the issue of banning single use plastic in one go or phased manner.

Paswan on Monday held a meeting with bottled water industry and various government departments to find a suitable alternative for single-use plastic bottles for drinking water. Consumer Affairs Secretary AK Srivastava and senior officials from environment and chemical ministeries as well as Bureau of Indian Standard, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation were present in the meeting.

"Plastic has a big role to play in damaging environment as well as health of human beings and animals. We have seen reports of huge quantity of plastics found in stomach of cow," the minister told reporters here.

Stating that recycling is not a permanent solution, Paswan said there is a need to find an alternative, which is equally affordable and reliable. He said even pure paper bottle is not an alternative as some plastic is mixed.

"We have not got any concrete alternative of packaged drinking water during this meeting. Therefore, I have asked all manufacturers to send their suggestions by Sept. 11," the minister said, adding that these recommendations would be sent to the inter-ministerial panel and the Prime Ministers Office.

Paswan said the final decision would be taken by the government.

However, he said, "I want to appeal that there is pollution and various diseases because of plastics. Recycling is an alternative but not a permanent solution. Permanent solution is that plastic should be replaced and there should be a ban".

The ban would not affect employment as the alternative would create jobs, the minister said, while replying to a query on impact of ban on industry and economy.

The minister said the railway ministry which manufactures and sell packaged drinking water under 'Rail Neer' brand is also looking into the issue.

Speaking on the sidelines, All India Association of Natural Mineral Water Industry Secretary Behram Mehta said the packaged bottle water industry uses polyethylene terephthalate, which is 100 percent recyclable and even used globally.

He said the industry has achieved 92 percent recycling and will soon achieve 100 percent.

Mehta, who is Managing Director of AVA Natural Mineral, said the bottled water industry is worth Rs 30,000 crore. The entire plastic industry is worth Rs 7.5 lakh crore and involves seven crore people.

Mehta stressed that paper, glass and steel are neither an affordable alternatives nor environment friendly.

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