The sale of cloth and eco-friendly bags which can be recycled and reused has increased in the city following the state government’s decision to ban the use of plastic bags. Industry experts believe that Pune requires an aggregate of 35 metric tonnes of paper and cloth bags and said that cloth bag sale in the city has escalated by 15 per cent following the announcement of the ban. Residents living in the old areas of Pune and suburbs have reportedly started using cloth bags, which are more expensive than regular plastic bags which they have been using for decades together. Vishal Mohite, owner of Bhawani Group of Industries in Moshi which is into manufacturing cloth bags, said, “The demand for cloth bags has gone up by 15 per cent and inquiries too have increased since the ban was implemented. The bags in demand are the middle and low profile ones, which need to match up with the plastic bag segment. The issue needs to be handled with care and sensitivity,” he said. Shopkeepers are refusing to give plastic bags to customers and are instead offering them cloth bags. Similarly, some traders have started using newspaper bags for carrying items that are not very heavy. Meanwhile, citizens groups have also welcomed the plastic ban move and demanded that organic, biodegradable and eco-friendly bags must be compulsorily used by residents. Daljit Goraya, secretary, Ganga Kingston Society, said, “The Pune Municipal Corporation must welcome the move and residents must follow the rule in its letter and spirit. We are also using cloth bags instead of plastic ones and it is a major step towards healthy living,” he said. Sadeep Shirsath, a vegetable vendor on NIBM road, said that he has stopped giving vegetables in plastic bags and is instead asking residents to bring their own cloth bags. “I myself give them cloth bags at an extra charge, which the residents are paying willingly. It will take some time for the mindset to change but I am sure plastic will be out of our the society completely. Moreover, the fines imposed are heavy and it will be difficult for any vendor to cope up with the fine if caught by the anti-plastic squad of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC),” he said. Narayan Chaudhary, who runs a grocery shop in Vishrantwadi, said, “We have bought cloth bags in bulk and are educating residents about the need to shift to cloth bags. PMC has already imposed a heavy fine on us when they caught us with plastic bags. We cannot bear the losses and instead are switching to the cloth bag mechanism. The customers too are accepting the change slowly and gradually,” he said.The Rotary Club of Pune Central is currently engaged in implementing an ambitious citizen centric and environment friendly project to promote the use of paper bags made of newspapers and has trained 10,000 people so far through over 1,000 workshops across the country and world. Currently, there are about 100 small groups who are producing paper bags and are eking out their livelihood. They earn about Rs 125 to Rs 150 per day and about 30 crore such bags have already been sold by these groups till date. The Rotary Club of Pune Central has donated over 1,500 kits costing about Rs 250 each to needy persons enabling them to start their own units. Surendra Shroff is the Rotary’s district chairman of the preserve planet earth committee and the brain behind the project. PMC to form special anti-plastic teams to hunt down violatorsThe Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) will be forming a special team for undertaking hunts for illegal use of plastic carry. The PMC solid waste management department head Suresh Jagtap said, “The PMC is also forming a special team for implementing the hunt for plastic carry bags and waste. As per the state government’s decision, the civic body has been entrusted with the responsibility to execute the ban and draw up a necessary plan of the course of action within a month.”PMC has also warned traders and residents of strict action if they fail to destroy plastic carry bags and plastic waste within the stipulated time period of a month given by the state government.As per the state government’s instruction, the PMC is appealing residents to completely give up plastic ban. According to Jagtap, residents and traders have to give away their plastic waste and carry bags on their own. He said that after one month, the PMC will start taking strict action against violators.According to officials, the PMC will take action against users as well as the traders who are giving carry bags to the consumers as well.As per the notification issued by the state government, local bodies will be responsible for setting up recycling points for the banned material. Among the items banned by the government are non-woven polypropelene bags, disposable plastic and thermocol containers and plastic sheets to wrap or store products. However, the government has exempted milk pouches from the ban considering its implications on the availability and supply of milk in urban areas.Plastic manufacturers frantic over industry shutdownThe Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturing Association, on Monday, claimed that 1,000 tonnes of plastic bags meant for sale was lying unused with stockists in the wake of the plastic ban announced by the state government. Association president Ravi Jashnani said that the stock meant for the next six months was lying unused and added that it will lead to serious economic losses for the vendors, plastic manufacturers and other stakeholders in the business. Jashnani said that the sudden decision by the government has wreaked havoc with the industry coming to a sudden halt. “Many families have been rendered homeless due to the loss of jobs that followed the plastic ban as the industry collapsed almost overnight. We had filed an affidavit in the court seeking more time, but the decision came as a bolt from the blue,” he said. Sanjeev Bogawat, a trader who deals in whole sale of plastic bags, said that the decision has hit the industry hard and will lead industry workers and businessmen to penury. “We request the government to give us more time so that the existing stock is sold out and our families can be saved from hunger and death,” he said.