Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s decision to ban the use of plastic flexies has left hundreds of flexi printers and employees working in the sector on hold in Visakhapatnam. Facing a bleak future, members of the printers association are expected to hold a meeting very soon to discuss their action plan.

According to printers, political representatives, educational establishments, advertising agencies and government offices, with the exception of people celebrating weddings and other events, are their main customers. Already due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the printing sector has experienced a sharp drop in activity over the past two years.

“We welcome the decision of the Chief Minister. But we are looking for some time for change and a viable alternative. The cost of printing a square foot of plastic flexi can vary between ₹10 to ₹15, but in the case of fabric flexi, it can vary between ₹30 to ₹50. Image details on plastic flexi have good clarity and better visibility compared to those on fabric. Plus, plastic ones last a long time. Other than politicians, we don’t see people showing up to have cloth flexi in the future. Fabric printing is an expensive business and many may not turn up. So there should be an alternative,” said Abdul (name changed), a flexi printer from MVP Colony.

Visakhapatnam District Printing Association chairman and owner of Elite Sign Makers Trinadh Rao said there are about 160 printing machines in Visakhapatnam. Ninety percent of the shop owners bought these machines which cost around ₹15 to ₹20 lakh by borrowing loans from various banks and paying EMIs. “The ban decision could hit us hard financially,” he said.

Some printers don’t see flexies as adding to plastic pollution in the environment. Although the main motto of the ban is to fight against plastic, there is very little chance of anyone throwing hoses down the drain or garbage cans, they say, adding that after use, people usually use them again as tarps or for household purposes rather than throwing them away. .

Two months ago, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation Commissioner G. Lakshmisha called a meeting with people involved in flexi printing and urged them to gradually switch to fabric flexies in view of the ban going plastic in Visakhapatnam. Members called for a delay of around four to five months and urged the civic body to see if the flexies can be recycled. After the sudden announcement of the ban by the Chief Minister, the associations of flexi printers may soon meet with the authorities concerned.

Mr. M. Murali Krishna of United Digitals and Counselor of Visakhapatnam District Printing Association said that there is a severe shortage of fabric for flexi printing in the market which should be addressed first. “Without adequate fabric availability, we may not be able to commit to orders,” he said.

“We respect the Chief Minister’s vision for the environment. However, we should have had more time to find alternatives. We plan to meet with the commissioner of GVMC soon about this,” he said.

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In a patch

* The three districts of Visakhapatnam, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Anakapalli have about 450 printing houses, while the city of Visakhapatnam has about 160 printers.

* About 8,000 people depend on industry in Visakhapatnam.

*Printers say there are studies that say flexis can be recycled

* There is a strict ban on plastic below 120 microns, but flexis are above 300 microns, several printers claim.

* Printers may soon meet with Commissioner GVMC and submit a representation.

* The GVMC is likely to issue a notice to all flexi printing members to stop making plastic flexis and stick to fabric ones.