Shopkeepers and customers will have to think of alternatives from Friday when the Delhi government's blanket ban on the use of plastic bags comes into force.
From November 23, the environment department will fine people or shops using or distributing plastic bags.
The punishment for violating the ban is imprisonment of up to seven years and/or a fine of Rs. 1 lakh. Environment department officials said that to begin with, the penalty will be nominal.
"A notification was issued on October 23 that gave traders involved in the production and sale of plastic bags a month's time to dismantle their manufacturing facilities. Nobody, including shopkeepers, vendors, wholesalers, retailers and hawkers, will be allowed to sell, store or use plastic carry bags. Challaning will start from Friday but at the same time, we will intensify our awareness programmes," said an official.
The ban does not cover plastic carry bags used for the disposal of bio-medical waste or those used in pre-packaged items such as milk or flour.
While environmentalists have hailed it as a positive move, plastic manufacturers are unhappy with the manner in which it is being implemented.
"This is the only thing that was left to be done and we are happy that the government has taken such a decision. Implementation will be an uphill task but states have managed to implement it. Plastic bags have become an environmental hazard," said Satish Sinha, of Toxics Link.
Officials say plastic is a health hazard for animals. "Waste in plastic bags is a major cause of the death of stray animals such as cows, as they eat the plastic along with the food in bags. We raised this issue in court," said a Delhi government official. Manufacturers claim that since the matter is sub judice, the government cannot implement the ban.
"The matter is in court. The government can't notify it. The use of plastic is not harmful if it is recycled properly and not littered. It is the most economical and easy-to-use material available," said OP Ratra, who was a member of the national plastic waste management task force of the ministry of environment and forests (1996-97).
Traders asked the government to reconsider the ban. "Without an alternative plan, the government is imposing a blanket ban. Paper is costly and is not durable," said Sunil Kumar Gupta, a trader from Kamla Nagar Market.