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Plastic ban: Maharashtra govt to release manual for shopkeepers, street vendors

Street vendors, shop owners and establishments that give plastic bags to customers will be told about alternative packaging materials through a booklet

mumbai Updated: Nov 03, 2017 10:16 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Plastic bags dumped in the city clog storm water drains and lead to flooding, among other problems.(HT File)

To prepare for the total ban on plastic bags that will come into effect in March-April 2018, the state has initiated a campaign to help citizens, vendors and local administration adhere to the ban without a hiccup. Associations of street vendors, shop owners and establishments that give plastic bags to customers will be told about alternative packaging material through a pocket-size booklet.

“The idea is to educate the public on how to switch to paper or cloth bags. For this, we are in the process of developing a manual that will be distributed to all the 27 civic bodies across Maharashtra ,” said Satish Gavai, additional chief secretary, state environment department, adding that all meetings with local bodies will be conducted by November-end.

A ban on the plastic bags below 50 microns was imposed by the government after the 2005 deluge that claimed hundreds of lives in Mumbai. However, it was never enforced thoroughly. Shops were also asked to charge for plastic bags, but this has not made any substantial impact on their use.

Environmentalists said that carelessly dumped plastic bags clog storm water drains and cause flooding.

In September, state ministers met Maharashtra Pollution Control Board member (MPCB) secretary PN Anbalagan at Mantralaya and proposed a blanket ban on plastic bags from Gudi Padwa, Maharashtrian New Year, on March 18, 2018.

Gavai said the meetings with various stakeholders, municipal corporations and non-governmental organisations, who will be designing new paper or cloth bags, were underway. “The clock is ticking and before long it will be Gudi Padwa,” he said. “Our focus as of now is only on banning plastic bags of all sizes that are used daily. The booklet will be handy enough to keep in one’s pocket. It will have details about the life cycle of plastic as compared to alternative means of packaging. Once we manage to create enough awareness, our department will release a list of guidelines and implement the ban district-wise.”

He added that simultaneous meetings will also be held this month with NGOs such as Mahila Bachat Gat and unions, which will provide paper and cloth bags during the ban.

However, experts are sceptical whether banning only plastic bags will reduce the amount of plastic in the environment. “If you want to reduce plastic, the focus should not only be towards plastic bags but all other non-essential plastics such as snack food packaging, milk sachets, magazine plastic covers, plastics on invitation cards and bread wrappers. There should be a mandate to make all these recyclable or provide an alternative,” said Almitra Patel, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan national expert and member of the committee that drafted the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.

Patel added that it was also important to curtail plastic use by e-commerce websites. “This needs to be a mandate of the union environment ministry to direct online retailers to collect plastic after a delivery is completed and send it for immediate recycling. This needs to be done pan-India,” she said.

Commenting on the adverse effects of banning plastic bags, manufacturers said it could result in loss of jobs as most of the plastic bags are manufactured by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). “The problem is not the bag, but the shortfall in ability to implement the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. The guidelines clearly stated that bags below 50 microns should not be allowed. Since they (state) could not implement it properly, they decided to ban it,” said Akhilesh Bhargava, chairperson (environment), All India Plastic Manufacturing Association (AIPMA).

He added that paper bags have a larger carbon foot print, with more tree cutting. “Monetising the waste is the only solution to this problem as people will have more incentive to dispose plastic if a lucrative proposition is involved,” said Bhargava.

First Published: Nov 03, 2017 10:15 IST