If there’s a vote on the most-popular material we use on a daily basis, plastics will win hands down. Over the years, our blind love for this polymer and haphazard disposal habits have ensured choked drains (remember the Mumbai floods?) and rivers (Yamuna is a case in the point) and even polluted Mount Everest. Therefore, it is a good sign that the Delhi government has banned plastic bags. According to the directive, violators will face action under the Environment Protection Act, 1986: imprisonment up to five years and/or fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. The ban follows a Delhi High Court order based on the Justice RC Chopra Committee, which was set up to consider whether use of plastics was injurious to human beings and the environment.
The problem with plastics is that they are durable and degrade very slowly. The ones above 40-micron are better but to make that popular, the manufacturing side has to fall in line and ensure that they churn out only these. The consumers are rarely able to differentiate which is a better quality of plastic bags. With the directive, the final notification will be out sometime next week, the government has tried to take the issue up from the demand side: putting pressure on consumers to rise to the challenge and this will possibly force manufacturers to mend their ways.
However, to make it effective, only legislation won’t do especially in a country where compliance is lax. The government must link the issue to the larger issue of waste management and link it up with effective recycling. It should also take the Residents’ Welfare Associations into confidence and find out means and ways to make this ban effective. The other important issue is how do consumers like you and me dispose of the plastic bags we have stacked up in our store-rooms? Shouldn’t there be an collective system of disposing them? Moreover, when Delhi bans plastic bags, it does not mean the end of these bags or manufacturers. They will shut shop and move across the border because of the high demand for these bags in rural and semi-rural areas. The neighbouring states should take a cue and follow Delhi because pollution knows no boundaries.