Environmental groups that have been working on the polluting effects of plastic bags welcomed the judgement of the High Court with a rider: the government must not play spoilsport now.
“It is good the market of plastic bags is being reduced because if local markets and shops are not allowed to keep them then where would people find them?” said Prashant Pastore, lead project coordinator of Toxics Link, an environmental NGO.
“But the government’s track record has not been great in enforcing plastic ban because bags less than 20 microns, which were supposed to be banned, have been freely available. So it’s all a matter implementation and the resources deployed for it,” he said.
“This means less plastic will get into waste stream because ragpickers will pick them up too because 40 microns and above can be recycled. Earlier, ragpickers were leaving thinner plastic bags out because they had no recycle value,” said Abhay Ranjan, formerly with environmental Chintan Environmental Research Group.
“But the government must be sincere in implementing it and also giving an alternative to people like encourage small industries producing jute or paper bags,” he said.
“The problem with the thinner bags was that they were choking drains, and over exposure to weather also had the risk of their toxic chemicals releasing in the environment. A large number of cattle also fed on them and died,” said Vinod Jain of NGO Tapas that filed the PIL resulting in the ban. “In winter, discarded plastic bags are burnt for fire in the open, and that releases toxic fumes in the environment,” he added.
The worries that remain, he said, were smaller items like gutkha, tobacco pouches, which come in plastic packs that easily add to the waste stream.
“There is a need to address the waste segregation issue as well because everything can fail if the civic bodies do not collect waste or even segregate them well. Basically this should not result in mere shifting of waste from one stream to anther,” Pastore said.