Plastic industry also called as ‘sunrise industry’ is a postwar phenomenon in the country. It is a rapidly growing industry. It offers lucrative employment opportunities for skilled labour. In 1992 the industry employed about 80,000 skilled technicians. The total investment in the processing industry in 1991 was estimated at Rs. 1,000 crores. This is expected to grow to Rs. 4,500 crores by 2,000 AD.
Owing to its easy moulding, non-corrosive and moisture-resistant qualities plastics have a variety of uses in packaging industry, manufacture of household goods, building and construction materials, industrial goods, agricultural goods, electrical accessories, imitation jewellery etc.
The plastic industry has two distinct phases: (1) production of raw materials, and (2) moulding and fabrication of plastic goods.
Production of Plastic Raw-materials
This includes polymer manufacturing industry supplying polyethylene (low and high density), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene, polystyrene and acrylics. The feedstock’s of these materials are mostly naphtha, alcohol, calcium carbide, phenol and benzene. Mumbai is the largest centre for the production of polymer. Other centers includeBarauni, Pimpri (Pune), Durgapur, Rishra (Kolkata), Sahupuram Mettur, Bongaigaon, Hazira and Vadodara.
The Plastic raw material consumption in India during 1990 was a little over nine lakh tones which exceeded 1.5 million tons by 1995. By 2,000 AD, the demand is likely to exceed 2.5 million tones. In spite of the rapid growth of the petrochemicals industry in recent years, the demand-supply gap is likely to exceed a million tons by 2005. Between 1990-2000 an investment of about $ 10,400 million has been made in setting up new petro-chemical complexes. Of these two complexes at Nagothane (Maharashtra) and Hazira (Gujarat) have already been commissioned. Nine more at Auraiya, Vishakhapatnam, Gandhar, Haldia qnd Maharashtra are nearing completion.
Plastic Converting Industry
It involves the moulding and fabrication of plastic goods using polymer. These goods are manufactured both by big companies like Flex industries, Gurat Propack, Askar and Sharp etc. as well as by small scale enterprises. Manufactured products include packaging, household goods, building and construction material, industrial goods and agricultural material.
Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Vadodara, Vapi (Gujarat), Kanpur. Amritsar, Coimbatore and Chennai are the important centers for the manufacture of plastic goods. Plastic recycling is another aspect of plastic goods industry. In India about 45 to 50 per cent recycling of plastics is done from post consumer waste.
India imports plastic polymers from West European countries, Japan and the United States. It also exports plastic goods to neighbouring Asian and African countries. Our main competitors are China, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and Malaysia.
Plastic industry besides facing the shortage of raw material and competition from abroad is facing stiff opposition from environmentalists. This needs a comprehensive “public education campaign” and waste recycling policy to tide over the situation.