NGT ban on plastic bags: Delhi cannot afford to falter on implementation of order

If the plastic ban has to be successful this time round, the Delhi government needs to do much more: It has to work on proper collection, segregation, recycling and processing of plastic waste and, more importantly, ensure that people have alternatives to plastic bags.

editorials Updated: Aug 13, 2017 20:20 IST
Hindustan Times
NGT ban on plastic bags,Justice Swatanter Kumar,Delhi Pollution Control Board
A ragpicker rummages through plastic bottles and polythene bags, New Delhi(AFP)

Last week, the National Green Tribunal banned the most common shopping accessory available in Delhi: Plastic bags. In an interim order, a bench headed by the Tribunal’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. Micron is the global measurement unit for thickness of such bags. The thinner the bag, the more harmful it is to the environment. There are many reasons why this seminal order should be followed to a T by the Delhi Pollution Control Board, the implementing agency of the National Green Tribunal directive: Plastic bags not only pollute our water but also land; they are made from non-renewable sources and contribute to climate change; a lot of energy is used in producing these bags; they do not degrade and are harmful to wildlife and marine life. Then, as we find out every monsoons, these bags choke drains, leading to flooding in urban areas. In other words, plastic bags never die, they simply break into smaller and smaller pieces and ultimately leaches chemicals into water.

This is not the first time the National Green Tribunal has ruled against use of plastic bags. Last month too the Tribunal criticised the Delhi government over rampant use of plastic in the national capital despite the 2016 ban. The Union government last year also imposed a similar ban. But nothing worked due to various reasons. The plastic lobby says manufacturing of plastic below 50 microns is already prohibited as per factory licencing norms. But these are made by unregistered units, which find many takers because they are cheaper, in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

If the plastic ban has to be successful this time round, the Delhi government needs to do much more: It has to work on proper collection, segregation, recycling and processing of plastic waste and, more importantly, ensure that people have alternatives to plastic bags.

First Published: Aug 13, 2017 20:20 IST