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Paper bags cause 20% loss of food for restaurants

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PUNE: Restaurants are reporting close to 20% food loss after shifting to paper bags following the plastic ban, as these bags have been tearing while handing out parcels. Restaurateurs said they are yet to come across a sturdy substitute.

While corn starch bags were banned too as they contained plastic, another substitute made from sugarcane waste has left customers fuming over bad odour. Meanwhile, as paper straws tend to get soggy after they are dipped in drink, around 60% of restaurants in the city have stopped providing them to customers.

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Ganesh Shetty, president, Pune Restaurants and Hoteliers Association (PRAHA), told TOI that restaurants are still trying to find a substitute for plastic carry bags and containers, even as the deadline for the plastic ban —June 23 – inches closer. “Paper bags are causing 10%-20% of food wastage in restaurants as they tear and disintegrate. Paper bags are not strong enough to bear the weight of food and are not suitable for carrying curries, chutneys and sauces,” he said.

Shetty said that another bag, which has recently come into the market is a mix of sugarcane waste and certain materials. “However, the bag emits a foul odour and customers began complaining when we delivered food in it. They thought that the odour was coming from the food, rather than the bag,” he said.

Kamlesh Barot, past president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), said that with paper bags and other substitutes for plastic, restaurants are facing problems carrying liquids for takeaways. “We have not been able to find a suitable replacement for plastic to carry liquids such as dal. Unfortunately, we have no other alternative as of now and seek the environment department’s clarification on items that are banned and whether food-grade plastic can be used by restaurants,” said Kamlesh Barot.

Nilesh P Kolapkar, director, Post 91, a restaurant in Baner, said that they shifted to cloth bags since the paper bags were coming apart during takeaways. “There are several issues with paper cutlery too. For instance, paper straws seem to put customers off. Not only are they put off with the taste of paper, straws made from the material tend to get soggy after being dipped in a drink for a while. Customers have thus started skipping straws and are drinking straight from the glass,” said Kolapkar.

Vikram Shetty, vice-president, Pune Restaurants and Hoteliers Association, (PRAHA), said that a couple of problems related to paper bags have surfaced. “First, they are costly— the price being Rs 5-Rs 8 per bag. Even if they are bought at that price, they tear, causing food wastage. When we pack chutney in such bags, half of it leaks by the time it reaches the customer. Similar issues are being faced with paper straws as they get soggy. Steel straws meanwhile are difficult to clean and have to be reused, which most customers don’t like,” he said.

Praful Chandawarkar, founder, Malaka Spice and Tvum Brands, said his restaurants have switched to wooden spoons, forks and chopsticks for takeaways after the ban.

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