Problem of plenty: Ban no bar, Delhi markets struggle to get rid of plastics

Updated on Jul 02, 2022 08:11 AM IST
  • Earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic cutlery and straws were found in use with shopkeepers saying that they were not able to find alternatives suggested by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).
A MCD official said enforcement teams seized 689.01 kg of plastic items and issued 368 challans on Friday.
A MCD official said enforcement teams seized 689.01 kg of plastic items and issued 368 challans on Friday.
By, New Delhi

Despite a nationwide ban on the manufacturing, import, stocking, distribution and sale of 19 single-use plastic (SUP) items coming into force from Friday, many of these articles were still being used in markets across the city, HT found during a spot check.

Earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic cutlery and straws were found in use with shopkeepers saying that they were not able to find alternatives suggested by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).

Forty eight DPCC and revenue department teams (both under the Delhi government) and 125 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) squads were deployed to enforce the ban and penalise the violators. However, Delhi government did not release the data of violations on Friday. A senior official, however, added that the government will continue to issue warning notices till July 10, and take penal action only from July 11.

A MCD official said enforcement teams seized 689.01 kg of plastic items and issued 368 challans on Friday.

Following the latest notification of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2022 in February, the central government directed all states and union territories (UTs) to phase out SUPs in a planned manner by July 1, 2022.

The banned items include ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice cream sticks made of plastic, thermocol for decoration, plastic cutlery including spoons, glasses straws and plates; plastic cigarette packs, plastic stirrers and PVC banners less than 100 microns in thickness.

According to an assessment by the environment department in 2020, Delhi generates 1,060 tonnes of plastic waste every day, which is roughly 10.10% of the total municipal solid waste. Of this, 587 tonnes waste is single-use plastic.

According to environmental experts, most of the single-use plastic ends up at landfills where it is either burnt or stays in the garbage, polluting air and soil.

Janakpuri C4E market

At the Janakpuri C4E market, street vendors and eateries were still using plastic disposable plates, along with plastic glasses, while juice sellers were also found to be using plastic straws. Rakesh Kumar, who sells pav bhaji and chat said he was unaware of the ban, but added that the will adopt the alternatives if they were cheaper. “There have been bans in the past too. If plates and spoons made out of other items are made cheaper, then we will not face additional cost and switch immediately. But, plastic remains the cheapest option so far,” he said.

Tilak Nagar central market

Balloons on plastic sticks, plastic wrappers for invitation cards and plastic forks, plates and spoons were readily available at the market on Thursday, with food vendors and small shops selling eatables using the banned items freely.

Vendors and shopkeepers at the market on Thursday also raised cost concerns, saying that alternatives are expensive and available only in limited supply, and appealed to the government to address these problems so that they are able to switch over without trouble.

“There is a difference of almost 30-40 paise between a plastic and paper straw. Customers also complain that the paper straw breaks down easily and we have to provide another one. Adopting these alternatives is not difficult, but small vendors need to receive some assistance too,” said Sonu, 24, who runs a juice corner in the market.

Khan Market, GK1 M-Block markets

Compliance was much better at upscale markets such as Khan Market and GK-1 M block markets, but HT was found candy sticks such as lollipops with plastic sticks, along with earbuds that had plastic sticks available at some shops.

Sanjiv Mehra, president of Khan Market Traders’ Association, who also runs a toy store in the market, said certain items such as earbuds had no alternatives in the market, with bamboo or wood variants being in short supply.

He said that while plastic packing on items such as invitation cards could be removed, plastic wrapping on items such as toys or clothes was essential, and added that the government needs to be lenient with sellers and buyers until suitable alternatives are available in sufficient quantities.

“Shopkeepers at Khan Market are willing to comply with the ban. But for certain items, there are simply not enough alternatives, or an adequate supply of these alternatives. Once available, the adoption will be easy,” he said.

Lajpat Nagar Central market

At Lajpat Nagar Central market, street vendors and small eateries were found using plastic cutlery and stirrers. Dinesh Pal, who runs a Chhole Bhature outlet in the market and had switched over to paper plates and wooden cutlery in 2019, said his overall expenditure shot up due to the difference in cost of plastic and paper items. “This is the same reason plastic has not been phased out. Those who switch are paying more, whereas other vendors continue to use plastic and they are earning more profits,” he added.

Three-day anti-plastic fair

To promote alternatives to the banned SUP items, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai on Friday launched a three-day ‘Plastic Vikalp Mela’ where businesses, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers from all over the country will be displaying items that can replace the banned plastic items.

Rai said the government was working on a two-pronged action plan – Solution with enforcement.

“The government has started this plastic alternatives fair so that people can be made aware about options which are available in place of plastic items. On one hand, the government is taking all steps to promote the alternatives of single use plastic, on the other hand, an enforcement team has been constituted by the DPCC and revenue department to implement the ban. These teams will initially issue warning notices to the violators till July 10, after which penal action will be taken,” Rai said.

The penalties for violation includes fines of up to 1 lakh, or a jail term of up to 5 years under the Environment Protection Act.

Rai also said the government will hold a roundtable conference with all stakeholders on Sunday. “For those involved in the production of single-use plastic items, we are also showcasing a new green startup policy in this fair so that they can switch over to these alternatives,” he added.

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