Exploiting the loopholes

Destructive path

Exploiting the loopholes

Plastic ban had a lot of public support. Environmentalists hailed it as a welcome move and people at large were finally pleased that the authorities had woken up to do something to save the environment from the depredations of plastic.

And soon after the ban, the ministry set a uniform minimum thickness of not less than 40 microns for plastic bags against the previous 20 microns. The environment ministry notified that plastic carry bags should be of a minimum thickness of 40 microns and will not be given free of cost to consumers. But four months after the notification, have people and plastic manufacturers shunned plastic and adhered to the rules?

Metrolife spoke to people in general and those who matter to find out about the ban and whether the use of plastic bags has fallen drastically.

While authorities are self-congratulatory and say they are doing their bit to ensure that the ban is followed, people say they find it difficult to shun plastic bags altogether. But a few others say they were willing to go an extra mile and carry their own bags to ensure they don’t use plastic.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has begun taking action against plastic manufacturers who have not adhered to the rule. “We’ve caught three manufacturing units that continue to manufacture and market plastic bags that are less than 40 microns. We have the authority to seize their licence and shut down the units,” said Kumaraswamy, a senior environment officer with the board.

He added, “Even 40 micron plastic bags do not serve the purpose of protecting the environment but these bags have great degradable value compared to those less than 40. One of the major provisions under the new set of rules is the recognition of the role of waste pickers. The municipal authority will now have to constructively engage agencies or groups working in waste management, including waste pickers who will get paid more for these bags.”

The officer said people continued to throw plastic bags in drains, open sites and burn them, which polluted the environment.   The health wing of the BBMP, is in charge of enforcing the ban of plastic bags, that are less than 40 microns. Shopping malls, retails stores grocery stores come under their purview.

Gayathri, the chief health officer said, “After our enforcement drive about 25 per cent of the plastic bags have been seized. I have directed markets to stop using these bags.” Another senior health officer with the BBMP said, “We have inspected, region wise and seized plastic bags. We didn’t have to cancel licences because the stores have responded positively. But it will take a while to clear the City of plastic bags that are less than 40 microns.”

While a few people have reacted positively to the ban, most concede that they can’t do without a plastic bag.  The new 40 micron bags indicate the name and registration number of the manufacturer, the thickness of the bag and also indicate whether
they are recycled or composted.

Suguna Niranjan, who runs a boutique said, “It’s impossible to do without a plastic bag but I am working towards making my own paper bags for my customers. That will take a while.”

Meena Das, a housewife, too agrees that one can’t always carry a bag along and plastic bags come handy. “I live in Peenya and plastic is banned in and around where I live. But extensive travelling makes it difficult for me to carry a bag all the time. This is a practical problem,” she reasoned.  Anne, a first year undergraduate student at Christ University said, after the ban she has been carrying her own shopping bag. “This is the only way I can contribute to a cleaner, greener place.”

Jyoti Bratapaul feels unless the supply side is curbed, people will not shun plastic bags, “Plastic of any sort should be banned and people must stop using plastic.”  

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