By Saabira Chaudhuri, 7/5/19, Wall St. Journal MUSSOORIE, India—A generation of Indians has grown up on instant no odles brand Maggi, which accounts for one in every four dollars Nestlé SA makes in India. But its nonrecyclable packaging has become a big proble m—for both India and Nestlé.
Yellow Maggi packets and other plastic waste increasingly blight this verda nt town in the foothills of the Himalayas and are strewn across India. Now, Maggi packets—along with chip bags, candy wrappers and shampoo pou ches from the world’s biggest brands—are the target of new laws in India, forcing consumer-goods companies to grapple with the waste t heir products generate.
The daily plastic waste generated by the average Indian—while much lower than the average American—climbed 69% between 2015 and 2018, according to government estimates. Across the country, dumps are overflowin g and drains are clogging with plastic, while cows—considered sacre d—are getting sick after eating packaging.
Nonrecyclable packaging is a problem globally, but particularly acute in co untries with poor waste management. Many Indian households lack regular col lection services so they burn trash or dump it on the side of the road. Muc h of the waste ends up in waterways. Of plastic found in the world’ s oceans, 90% is traced to 10 rivers, according to a 2017 study published i n the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Eight of the rivers are i n Asia and two flow through India.
In emerging markets, products like shampoo and detergent are often sold in single-serve pouches similar to the ketchup packets that come with an order of fries. The resilient “multilayer” pouches protect again st extreme temperatures and contamination, and, most important, are afforda ble for poor consumers. Single-serve packets make up over 80% of shampoo sa les in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, according to Euromonitor.
But like Maggi, this type of packaging combines different types of plastic with materials like aluminum. That makes it nonrecyclable and of no interes t to India’s waste pickers who trawl through trash looking for recy clables to sell. [...]