The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the authorities of all states to explore the possibility of introducing biodegradable plastic bags instead of polythene bags of any thickness.
"We consider it appropriate to direct the authorities concerned in all states to explore the possibility of introducing the use of biodegradable or compostable plastic bags as opposed to polythene plastic bags of any thickness," a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The bench gave the direction while upholding the Chandigarh administration's July 2008 notification banning the use and manufacture of plastic bags there, saying that it "is a step towards better environmental administration and in larger public interest."
The bench asked the states to consider biodegradable or compostable plastic bags as an alternative to polythene bags of any thickness as "environmental consequences of such plastic waste in solid waste are well known as it takes hundreds of years to degrade and fill up landfill sites."
"Plastic litter can also lead to clogged drains, which result in sanitation, flooding and sewage problems," it noted.
It also said many countries had largely replaced the use of plastic bags by either switching over to reusable bags, biodegradable or compostable bags, but in India, the share of plastic waste in the total municipal solid waste had risen from around 0.5% in 1996 to more than 9% in 2005. "Almost half of this waste comprises used plastic bags and packaging material," it said.
The tribunal made the observations in its 34-page verdict dismissing the plea of two Chandigarh-based plastic bags and packaging material manufacturers which had challenged the notification on the ground that no such decision had been taken by Punjab and Haryana.
The bench rejected the contention, saying that the Chandigarh administration had no control over states of Punjab and Haryana and "it is for those states to issue such notifications in that behalf".