Himachal Pradesh will impose a ban on using polythene for packaging non-essential eatables, especially potato chips and candies, from July 1, officials said on Sunday.
The ban, first of its kind in the country, comes in the wake of a Himachal Pradesh High Court order in January, imposing a ban on polythene use in packaging non-essential eatables that the court said are junk food.
This means eatables like potato chips, cookies, candy, chewing gum, ice cream, chocolates and noodles would not be available in polythene packs.
But essential items like milk and vegetable oils are exempted from the ban, an official said.
"There is a need for preventing degradation of environment," a division bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol had observed while hearing a petition on indiscriminate use of plastic.
The court directed the government to impose a ban across the state from April 1 but the government pleaded to provide more time to the traders to clear their stocks.
The ban is likely to have wider ramifications as scores of multinational companies, which sell such eatables, will be impacted.
"It is not that 100 percent biodegradable and compostable plastic and packaging material is not available in the market. It may increase the cost of the product. But then people indulging in the luxury of consumption of such consumable items, edible or otherwise, need to share the burden of costs," the court said.
The court, say legal experts, believes the price rise will be a deterrent for voluminous consumption of junk food including aerated beverages, which contain a high concentration of synthetic sugars.
"We are of the opinion that there should be a ban on only those non-essential items which fall in the category of junk food such as wafers, sweets, noodles, chocolates, ice cream candy, biscuits and 'namkeen'," the court said.
"These should be brought into Himachal Pradesh only in biodegradable packaging. Even soft drinks should be brought in glass bottles or other biodegradable packaging but not in non-biodegradable packaging," the court said.
It added: "We also make it clear that if we find that this experiment is successful, then we may expand the scope of this order to cover other non-essential items also."
Earlier, the government had imposed ban on polythene bags made of non-biodegradable materials and on disposable plastic products.