Despite ban, plastic remains carrier of choice

For want of a viable alternative, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Karnataka Forest Department continue to defy the plastic ban in nurseries. 

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change imposed a ban on the use of plastic even in the nurseries in November 2018. But the agencies are yet to find replacements. 

The Forest Department is planning to use root trainers from August onwards while the BBMP is experimenting with woven sacks — similar to cement sacks — in two of its nurseries at Attur and Kempapura.

The civic body distributed 5,000 saplings grown in the sacks to corporate companies and associations, but none of them has returned the sacks. The bags are shredded and discarded. 

"These sacks are made of a thicker plastic and are quite unlike the polyethene bags," said Tharanath, the BBMP official in charge of the nursery at Kempapura. "We've been directed by the head office to use these sacks since they're stronger than cloth and don't damage the sapling." 

The Forest Department has already prepared the saplings in plastic bags in all its nurseries. Their plan is to switch to root trainers when they raise fresh saplings during the monsoon in August. It also has plans to recycle the root trainers. 

Punati Sridhar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, said his department would do some experiments this year on the bags, but the focus would remain on raising a large number of saplings and keeping them undamaged. 

Meanwhile, the Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST) is joining forces with industry partners to try out some alternatives. These include bags made with polybag materials like poly-lactic acid, starch and polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT). 

While they are working with biodegradable plastic, they seem to be less effective since they are thin and tend to degrade when exposed for long periods.

"We came out with some alternatives, but the Forest Department is not convinced about it for financial reasons. We're working on a few more ideas," said Pankaj K Aggarwal, scientist, extension, IWST. 

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Despite ban, plastic remains carrier of choice

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