Ready for blanket ban on plastic bags?

desperate Measure

Ready for blanket ban on plastic bags?

For years, Rajesh Singh has been selling vegetables at Laxmi Nagar. Without any fear he gives vegetables and fruits in plastic bags to his customers.

But come November 23 and Rajesh would not be providing any plastic bags to his customers, as Delhi government will begin its drive on enforcing a complete ban on the manufacture, storage and sale of plastic bags. Though the City government had imposed a similar ban in 2009 too, it proved ineffective since most shopkeepers upgraded the quality of bags they stocked and doled out.

There were others who took advantage of the loosely implemented ban and continued to supply bags made below the permissible limit of 40 microns. In short, shop keepers and citizens have continued to openly violate norms. 

Since the earlier ban had not made much of a difference, the government in September had come up with stricter norms and notified a blanket ban on plastic under which no person shall manufacture, store, sell, import or transport any kind of plastic in the city. 

Shopkeepers, vendors, wholesalers, retailers, traders and hawkers are not allowed to sell or use any kind of plastic carry bags. However, the ban will not affect the use of plastic specified under the bio-medical waste (management and handling) rules, 1998. Plastic used to pack food products such as milk, cooking oil, flour bags and plastic cups largely used by tea vendors will also be allowed.

Disgruntled with the government’s move, retailers and manufacturers are calling it a hasty step. “Delhi government has passed the order without taking the interested body of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers into consideration. They have taken this step without providing an alternative solution,” says Akhilesh Bhargawa of All India Plastics Manufacture Association (AIPMA).

  “Keeping focus on cotton bags and paper bags as the environment friendly options is no solution as paper releases high carbon content when burnt. Definitely, that too impacts the environment directly.  The problem is that the government is not looking at a wide spectrum to deal with the problem of plastic,” remarks Akhilesh.

Accepting that littering of plastic and its improper disposal is a major hurdle, Akhilesh explains that banning is not the only solution.

He suggests that the price points of the used polybags should be raised like that of the plastic bottles which were earlier a major problem. He says, “Disposal of plastic bottles were earlier a problem in the city but with the increase in the price points of used bottles and apt arrangement for recycling solved the problem to a large extent. A similar approach should be followed for plastic polybags too.” 

Presently, the price of used plastic bags in scrap market is Rs 10 per kilogram. If the price is raised to Rs 30-40, the overall price of recycled polybags will also increase and help control its use to some extent.

However, some find the ban on plastic bags a sensible move to tackle the problem.  “The government has taken a good step to make Delhi plastic free. But this is not possible until the order is implemented efficiently. More so, officials should not harass hawkers and vendors. We are ready to pay for the alternate bags which we generally do in any case,” says Vasudha Talwar Singh, a housewife.

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