Non-woven bags to go

In a setback to Delhiites’ search for a suitable alternative to plastic bags, the government has now also banned non-woven bags at local markets and shopping centres in the Capital saying they, too, are made of plastic, reports Avishek G Dastidar.
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Updated on Feb 27, 2009 01:00 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByAvishek G Dastidar, New Delhi

In a setback to Delhiites’ search for a suitable alternative to plastic bags, the government has now also banned non-woven bags at local markets and shopping centres in the Capital saying they, too, are made of plastic.

Since the ban on plastic bags last month, non-woven bags have been emerging as the most popular alternative with local stores and big retailers because bags made of this material offer the texture and durability of a cloth bag at a much lower cost. You would have seen them at local stores being sold for Rs 10 apiece.

However, except for the manufacturers, no one, not even the government knew what material the non-woven bag was made of, until now.

Through laboratory tests, the Delhi government has found that non-woven bags are actually made of plastic mixed with a bit of additives (fabric etc) to give it that look and feel of cloth.

“As much as 98.3 per cent of the material used in non-woven bags is plastic. Makers were trying to mislead the public into believing that this material was cloth or something similar. But as per the High Court ruling, any plastic bag will have to be banned that’s why we have banned it,” said J.K. Dadoo, Environment Secretary, Delhi. The Shri Ram Institute of Industrial Research carried out the tests on the bags at the behest of the department after the Confederation of Indian Industry gave samples to the department for testing earlier this month.

Therefore, anyone using or storing or selling this kind of bags could face a maximum of five years in jail or fine up to Rs 1 lakh.

But manufacturers and retailers who have been backing this product post plastic bag ban are finding the decision hard to digest.

“These bags are the cheapest alternative to plastic. Out of all kinds of bags we make, the non-woven bags have generated the highest order from the market since the plastic bag ban,” said Ruchi Kashyap of Shruti Foundation has two factories for making these bags in Delhi. “Polypropylene is not harmful. It is recyclable, hence good for environment,” she claimed.

“We have tried alternatives to plastic bags and settled for non-woven bags in the end. They have been a success,” said Rajan Malhotra, head of the Big Bazar retail chain.

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