Despite the ban on use of flex imposed by the governments in various states, it’s difficult to make it happen in full scale. Main reason is that many print service providers (PSPs) still prefer this economical printing material and it’s not easy to stop the distribution chain. In this respect, VIKRAM DUTTA, Ogilvy veteran and ex-Telenor Brand BTL head (now merged with Airtel), gives some viable reasons why PVC flex should be banned in a positive way.
Government institutions like National Green Tribunals (NGT) and industry experts have raised concern over the use of plastic and have sought to end its use in various parameters, including PVC flex banners in the signage industry. When it comes to prohibiting PVC flex, the approach is to find alternative printing materials, which are eco-friendly and non-hazardous to health. “Broadly speaking, prohibition on the use of flex is good for the mankind as a whole and also for corporate image,” says Vikram Dutta.
In a recent study conducted by ICRA, around 90 percent of all signage and advertising prints in India are done using flex material, in which 18,000 tonnes of PVC are consumed every month. PVC is non-biodegradable; it has to be burnt in order to dispose of or dump at landfills. There is little engagement in recycling the material in India. “Toxic gases heavier than air are emitted when we burn flex, which eventually form a thick blanket blocking supply of oxygen in the vicinity and known for causing diseases like cancer. Flex ash pollutes soil and water,” explains Vikram.
“Debates on the ban of flex material are still going on. There are mixed opinions pouring in from different quarters,” says Vikram. He continues, “Many PSPs and media suppliers in the signage industry argue who will bear the additional cost when they go for costlier materials alternative to PVC flex and UV printing technology, leaving flex and solvent printing behind. They have further argument to say that flex is just five percent of the total PVC waste.”
Vikram agrees to the fact that switching to UV technology will be 30 percent costlier than solvent printing. “And there will be certain change in advertising and promotional (A&P) budgets while shifting to UV, but it will make all of us more sensitive and add to environmental accountability. In this aspect, big corporate houses should take the lead. Of course, some of them have already taken up, but the scale is very small as of now. It should be large and in extensive way,” he adds.
“Now taking on the commercial side where we are trying to justify, we must look at resolving the issue in a mutually understanding manner, cooperating one another and those suppliers must be valued and partnered as they are largely missing in the industry right now,” says Vikram. In this respect, his appeal to every state government imposing the ban is that everything must be well planned beforehand, without disturbing business.
“The government should chalk out a clear path, say around six months’ time in advance and explain clearly the compensation to be given to those media suppliers or SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) who have already invested in flex or flex-related projects prior to the implementation of the new law. Let everybody, including all suppliers and end users, come together to bring a consensus. Who knows this can be a successful part of Swachh Bharat mission—else this anti-plastic tsunami may remain a futile exercise,” says Vikram.
Vikram feels that there is the need for understanding and responsibility for everyone in the industry to make the anti-plastic drive successful. His view is that people must stand up and work for a change, forgetting the saying—‘In India nothing works unless you have a stick in your hand!’
After all, in his conclusive word, Vikram persuasively says that not all storms come to disrupt life, some come
to clear your path.