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Maharashtra govt could relax plastic ban for retailers but conditions apply

Plastic ban in Maharashtra: Government may exclude retail packaging of products from the ban, but subject to the condition that the manufacturer sets up a mechanism to collect, recycle this material.

mumbai Updated: Jun 26, 2018 12:23 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra govt,plastic ban
Plastic ban in Maharashtra came into effect on June 23.(HT File Photo)

Just days after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) started implementing a plastic ban in Maharashtra by fining retailers in Mumbai, the state government may consider withdrawing its restrictions on a few items.

The state may exclude retail packaging of products — for instance, the plastic pouches used to pack items such as rice, sugar or pulses that are sold lose at your local grocer — from the ban, but subject to the condition that the manufacturer sets up a mechanism to collect and recycle this plastic material.

An expert committee, headed by Praveen Pardeshi, the additional chief secretary to the chief minister, has recommended this partial withdrawal of the plastic ban in Maharashtra to an empowered committee led by the environment minister Ramdas Kadam.

The second panel will take the final decision. Environment minister Kadam said if the association comes up with a proposal ensuring a mechanism to recycle the plastic used for packaging, the empowered committee would grant them the exemption.

The expert committee was set up to interact with the plastic industry and other stakeholders, to find out their grievances and iron out problems arising out of the ban. The empowered committee was set up to take a final decision on these recommendations. The empowered committee is likely to meet this week to discuss these issues.

If this proposal is approved, it will be the second decision in three months by the government to dilute the original ambit of the plastic ban in Maharashtra.

Earlier, the government revoked its decision to ban PET and PETE bottles, used by soft drink and bottled water companies in the state. The expert committee said it was proposing exempting retail packaging from the ban considering practical issues, said a senior official privy to the development. “The financial losses to the small-scale industries involved in plastic production also needs to be considered while taking such a decision, especially when we have allowed industrial packaging,” he said.

The move comes at a time the retail association threatened to go on a strike against the ban.

Packaging of a product includes two levels — primary and secondary. The first involves making plastic sheets and covers, while the secondary level includes the packaging done at shops and malls. The official added that instead of going into such details, the committee has suggested that retail packaging be exempted with riders that producer of plastic sheets and covers should take on the responsibility of collecting and recycling — under the extended producers’ responsibility (EPR) for waste management.

“This can be done by printing a source code that will identify the manufacturer, and printing its size on the plastic cover, which should be more than 50 microns,” the official said.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the nodal agency for implementing environment regulations and norms in the state, is also planning to ask implementing agencies such as the BMC to take action against use of three main plastic items — plastic bags, one-time use plastic items and one-time use thermocol items. This is to bring more clarity for citizens and retailers on what exactly is banned. It will hold a meeting with all urban local bodies to issue these directives soon, said a senior official with the MPCB.

“We will ask all implementing authorities — urban local bodies and district administration — to take action only in case of such violation only” said the official, who did not want to be named.

The state government is already under tremendous pressure from the retailers’ association over relaxing the plastic ban in Maharashtra. The retailers’ association in Mumbai has threatened to go on a strike from Wednesday.

First Published: Jun 26, 2018 10:34 IST