Awareness drive against plastic

Plastic bags still widely used in city, Delhi govt to launch campaign

With the matter of ban on plastic bags coming up in the High Court next month, the Delhi government is planning an awareness campaign against their use.

The city had seen a brief ban on use, storage and manufacturing of plastic bags in 2012 after a government notification. But the decision was challenged by the manufacturers in the court, which stayed the ban. Since then, plastic bags continue to be widely used in Delhi, degrading the environment by either filling the landfill sites, choking the Yamuna or being consumed by animals.

Moreover, their indiscriminate disposal by burning releases toxic substances into the air.

Aware of the fact that the matter is sub-judice and the decision could go either way, the government cannot restrict the use of plastic bags forcibly till then.

Hence, along with pushing for a need to reinstate the ban in the court hearing next month, the government is also considering to launch an awareness drive on the issue.

Taking a cue from states like neighbouring Uttar Pradesh which has successfully imposed the ban and some southern states, the city government wants to achieve a possible “attitudinal change” through this drive.

The first phase of the campaign would be reaching out to the public in “rich and posh” markets. “The existing situation is very bad. We are accumulating this plastic mess daily. It takes hundreds of years to degrade,” a government official said. 

“If the court allows the ban in the next hearing, we will do that but everything can’t be achieved with government forcibly implementing it. We need a change in attitude and awareness among people to take pride in using cloth, paper or jholas like in earlier days,” the official said.

The official however said their campaign could be a “complete success” if the High Court rules in its favour.  

“Even for a strong educational campaign and introducing jute or cloth bags, we would have to trace their suppliers and wean out the plastic bags slowly. This could become a complete success if we have a strong backing of the law,” the official said.

Experts feel that aspects like “humongous difference” in pricing of different types of bags have to be looked into by the government to discourage the use of plastic.

“There has to be a big push for alternatives, on their availability and pricing. The costs for various options are so different. They have to be competitive enough for shopkeepers, vendors and people so that they don’t go for plastic bags,” said Priti Banthia Mahesh, chief programme coordinator at Toxics Link NGO. 

Mahesh added that if the ban comes into force again, strict implementation along with awareness will be the key. 

“When the ban was there for a brief period, initially there was strict monitoring and government conducted surprise checks, resulting in shops following the ban. But once they stopped the inspections, vendors again turned to plastic bags. It has to be a carrot and stick approach,” she said.

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