Plastic or glass? The tussle over bottles between Kerala and liquor manufacturers

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BySouth First Desk

Published Jan 11, 2023 | 9:41 PMUpdatedApr 07, 2023 | 10:24 PM

Plastic liquor bottles Kerala

Kerala, it seems, is about to lose out to liquor companies over its directive that they use glass bottles instead of environment-unfriendly plastic bottles for some of their products.

Trouble began last April, when the government ordered the companies to stop supplying liquor in full (750 ml) plastic bottles. Full bottles must be made of glass, it insisted. Reason: The state estimated about 60 percent of liquor was sold in plastic bottles, which cannot be recycled easily, adding to its waste-management problems.

However, the companies which bottle popular brands in their distilleries in Kerala bypassed the directive with a show of ingenuity: They simply stopped selling full bottles in the state.

Drinkers were forced to buy either two half plastic bottles or a large one-litre plastic bottle (which was permitted). Buyers ended up paying more for their drinks.

So, while Kerala has technically not sold liquor in full plastic bottles since April, this is clearly no solution to the problem of pollution.

There is, of course, a sound business reason why liquor companies are adamant about their stance against glass bottles.

Kerala, which is generally against any kind of industry, does not have any bottle manufacturing unit. The liquor firms thus have to buy and transport glass bottles from faraway Uttar Pradesh. While a plastic bottle would cost hardly ₹6, the cost of a glass bottle, including transportation, is upwards of ₹20. As far as the companies are concerned, it is a no-brainer.

Now the liquor companies are mounting pressure on the state government to reverse its decision of April last year when the excise policy comes up for review on 15 January. Some have even threatened to shut down their bottling plants in the state if the Kerala government persists with its glass-only policy for full bottles.

Sources tell South First that the government is expected to capitulate and reverse its decision.

So another much-hyped “policy decision” of the ruling LDF will come a cropper for want of proper thinking through. And with tipplers usually throwing away empty bottles after consumption, the state will have to device new ways to deal with a huge environmental challenge.