Indiscriminate use of plastic a cause for concern

Last Updated 28 January 2011, 15:02 IST

A look into homes, shops and the environment around us will provide a depressing picture of the presence of plastic. Plastic has littered our tourist places, water bodies and drains. We have created a culture, which is perpetually dependent on plastic.

The growing popularity of plastics can be judged from the variety available— toys, packaging items, pipes and cables, just to mention a few.

Though the hazardous effects of the plastic is well known, people brush aside its dangers for its utilitarian value. Time and again environmentalists have been talking about the perils of plastic. Normally the thrown plastic flies high and gets stuck in an ugly form even on trees and bushes. As a result, the litter in our public places has become an eyesore.

Use of plastic in food products is harmful as food can be contaminated with the toxic plastic.

Laws have been passed by the States banning plastic, yet it finds no takers. The use and sale of plastic carry bags which are less than 20 microns in thickness is banned in the Mangalore City Corporation limits. However, the use of plastic bags continues to be rampant in markets across the city.

A visit to some of the shops in Mangalore City Corporation revealed the extent of use of plastic bags both by shopkeepers and customers. In fact, some of the meat and fish stalls in Central Market area and in State Bank area were selling meat in black coloured plastic bags. Even vegetables and fruits in few shops in the city are sold in banned plastic bags.

One of the shopkeeper said: “Paper bags are fragile so we have to use plastic bags, as they are cheap and easily available.”

In fact, Mangalore City Corporation had taken its first step against the use of plastic which are less than 20 microns by conducting raids on business establishments in Central market and Bunder areas recently in association with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).

The MCC Commissioner himself raided shops in these areas with instruments and seized banned plastics.

Speaking to City Herald, MCC Commissioner Dr Vijayprakash said “MCC has constituted two teams for the purpose of conducting the raids. Plastics of less than 20 microns that were found in shops were seized and handed over to the KSPCB officials for further action.”

Vijayaprakash said that in some cases, the plastic bags did carry label of 20 microns, but tests revealed that they did not meet the actual specification. These issues will have to addressed by the KSPCB officials. “Through raid, we wanted to give a clear message to the users of plastics below 20 microns that the use of banned plastic is punishable.”

In fact, even the meat stall owners were seen using black plastic bags. Efforts would be made to trace the supplier of such banned plastic bags. Black plastic bags and recycled plastic bags should not be used to handle food products as they are bound to release toxins that are harmful to the human beings,” he added.

In fact, KSPCB has more power to initiate action against the units which supplies plastic bags below 20 microns in the City.

The MCC would continue to raid the business establishments to check the use of banned plastic bags. Few of the traders had given excuses that they were not aware of the ban on plastic bags.

“There may be some genuine such cases. However, MCC will sensitise the traders on the need to avoid using plastic bags below 20 microns. The MCC would carry out surprise inspections in the future to crack down on banned plastics,” the Commissioner added.

“The use of plastic is a menace in the city. Throwing plastics into the open drainage are the main cause for the choking of the drains. It is commonplace to see garbage bins overflowing with plastic bags containing all types of waste stuffed in them tightly closed. This is most unscientific manner to dispose waste,” he added.

“We have leaf cups, paper cups, paper bags (newspaper and thick brown paper), jute bags, cloth bags all of which can replace plastic. Even bamboo baskets and baskets made of lantana can substitute plastic materials. One may argue that plastic is cheap, while paper is expensive. One reason against paper bags is also they tear fast and can’t withstand weight. In that case, one can use two instead of one,” said an official.

Unless and untill the members of the public as well as shopkeepers start to realise the importance of banning plastic which is less than 20 microns, perhaps, any step by authorities concerned would be of little help.

(Published 28 January 2011, 15:02 IST)

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