30,000 kg of plastic bags seized in Delhi, traders say 80% still in use
Almost three months after the NGT banned plastic bags less than 50 microns, the Delhi government has seized 30,000 kg of plastic carry bags, issued 1,650 challans and collected fines worth ₹31.8 lakh.Updated: Oct 30, 2017 14:20 IST
The Delhi government has collected over ₹30 lakh fine and seized around 30,000 kgs of plastic bags since August 10, almost three months after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned plastic bags less than 50 microns. But more than 80% of this banned product is yet to be seized, say plastic manufacturers.
In an interim order in August, a bench headed by the NGT’s chairperson, Justice Swatanter Kumar, also slapped a fine of ₹5,000 on anyone found in possession of non-biodegradable plastic bags less than 50 microns, which is the thickness of a human hair. The green court directed the Delhi government to seize the banned bags within a week.
According to representatives of the Plastic Manufacture’s Association, the seized bags could be less than just 20% of the total number of polythene bags (thinner than 50 microns) that are still available in the markets of Delhi-NCR.
“As per our estimates, the daily demand of plastic bags, less than 50 microns, is around 60,000 kg in Delhi-NCR. Most of the supply comes from outside NCR region,” said Rajesh Mittal, member of Plastic Manufacturers and Traders Association in Delhi.
Earlier this week, the government had come under the NGT scanner for the same reason. Justice Swatanter Kumar had said that one could easily find plastic bags being used across the city despite the ban.
“Approximately 30,000 kg of plastic carry bags (less than 50 microns) were seized, 1,650 challans were issued and fines worth ₹31.8 lakh have been collected as environmental compensation so far,” read a release issued by the state government on Sunday.
The street vendors, vegetable grocers and local shops are, however, still using the product in large numbers. Only a section of the shops have shifted to bags thicker than 50 microns.
“The demand for such thin bags is high as their cost is less than that of bags more than 50 microns. A vegetable grocer won’t be able to sustain if he is forced to give thicker bags,” Mittal added.
While the government is collecting plastic bags, it is unclear how they plan to dispose it off. A plastic bag takes an average of nearly 1,000 years to decompose. Meanwhile, it breaks into small pieces which remain embedded in the soil. The thinner the bag the greater is the possibility of its breakdown and mixing with the soil. Even ragpickers avoid collecting thin plastic bags as they are not cost effective.
Sources also said that while tonnes of seized bags are lying in godowns of various government agencies and municipal bodies, the authorities are still not sure what to do with these bags.
“We have not received any communication yet from the government. As of now we are just seizing them. They are being stored in our zonal offices,” said a senior official of NDMC.
Teams of officers from the revenue department, New Delhi Municipal Council, the three civic bodies, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Delhi Cantonment Board are visiting markets to seize such bags.
“We can’t just throw them in the dumping sites or burn them. This would trigger pollution,” said a senior official of the state environment department.
First Published: Oct 29, 2017 23:19 IST