A throwback to the past can help throw away plastic

A throwback to the past can help throw away plastic
The alternatives to plastic have not made wide inroads into Bengaluru city and for that matter in any Metro. Typically, the alternatives are paper bags, jute bags and cloth bags, all of which at one point of time Bengalureans back in the 80s would carry to the marketplace.

Industry experts say for example that if one million plastic bags are used in a day in Bengaluru for groceries, only about 10,000 to 30,000 jute, cloth and paper bags were used then for groceries in the city.

“In fact, 20 to 30 years ago, we used to carry cloth bags and jute bags to the market. There were no plastic bags then, at least not as widespread as now. One of the ways to deal with plastics is to increase production of jute and cloth bags and return to the old practice of carrying these bags for purchase of groceries,” says Kathyayini Chamaraj, a city-based civic activist.

Typically, the alternatives to plastics would be reusable bags which are durable and long lasting. They come in all different shapes, sizes, colours and styles. They are made from a variety of materials such as calico, cotton, recycled PET, hemp and jute. All these materials are considered environmentally safe.

New Zealand, which encourages reusable bags, has major supermarket chains that stock and encourage shoppers to purchase and use their branded reusable bags. Some NZ retail outlets offer their own branded cloth bags to customers, instead of plastic bags.

Science experts say there are materials other than reusable bags that are an alternative to plastic.

“Glass is one such material. Unlike plastic, which often is derived from fossil fuels, glass is made from sand. This renewable resource does not contain chemicals that can leach into your food or body. It is easily recycled - whether you throw away bottles in your recycling bin to be turned into new bottles or reuse glass jars for storing food leftovers. Glass may break if dropped, but it won’t melt in your microwave,” says a scientist.

Plastic additives are considered an alternative to plastic. They would not sit in the landfill for hundreds of years. They are biodegradable. Apart from this, researchers are revitalising the idea of converting casein, the principal protein found in milk, into a biodegradable material that matches the stiffness and compressibility of polystyrene, an ingredient of plastic. Chicken feathers are also considered an alternative to plastic.

Feathers, scientists say, can be used as part of a technology that takes waste out of landfills and transforms it into biodegradable plastic. Chicken feathers are composed almost entirely of keratin, a protein so tough that it can give strength and durability to plastics. Then there’s liquid wood, which looks, feels and acts just like plastic, but unlike petroleum-based plastic, it is biodegradable.

These alternatives are all in the R&D stage. They have to be developed into products that can be used in everyday activities. What are now being used as alternatives are paper, jute and cloth bags. Kathyayini Chamaraj suggests that the use of jute and cloth be incentivised.

 “One possible option is that shops can charge say Rs 20 for a plastic bag from consumers who shop and then the shop can return the money when the shopper gives back the plastic bag. This way the plastic won’t be thrown and will, in fact, be preserved for the next transaction. The idea is to reuse the product and reduce the overall quantity of the product being used.”

The alternative model

Several NGOs make paper bags and sell them to chemists, pharmacists and IT companies. The income is distributed among the low-income workers who get an alternative means of subsistence. The investment needed for making these bags is not heavy - newspaper and flour paste are all that one needs.

The workers in some NGOs sell 100 paper bags for Rs 4 or for Rs 15 depending on the size of the bag. Right now, fruit vendors, chemists, snack shops and store owners are the takers for it

If a plastic cover costs Rs 8, a jute bag of the same size would cost Rs 50, say industry experts

 Jute and cloth bags have become fashionable in seminars, conferences, marriages, social gatherings

 Paper bags are not yet as fashionable as cloth and jute bags

Types of jute bags

Embroidered jute bag
Jute pouch bag
Jute printed bag
Jute shopping bag
Jute executive bag
Jute beach bag
Jute fancy bag
Jute wine bottle bag

Peoplespeak

The ban should be complete. It should not be available in shops even if we need to pay money for it. Jute bags must be promoted as an alternative.
Srinath

Plastic should be discontinued. Cloth bags can be reused many times unlike plastic sheets or bags which get damaged very quickly.
Suma

The City will be clean and rid of pollution. Banning plastic will create a healthier
environment.
Swathi

Plastic should not be banned as packaging food like chips, bread becomes difficult. There is no suitable alternative in this regard. Instead, we can continue using plastic of thickness above 40 microns which can be reused many times and recycled easily.
Manjunath R Kotian

Health wise, it is a right move. Plastic lying on the ground release harmful chemicals which poison the soil. Cotton bags are an i
deal replacement for plastic as they are safe and durable.
Sujatha

It is a good move to ban plastic. We can see customers already reducing consumption of plastic by bringing their own bags to shopping malls. The ban will encourage people to start using safer alternatives. 
Ramprasad

It is not a particularly good move. If plastic is manufactured in a proper manner, they can be recycled and reused easily.
Ananya

It’s a rightful decision by the government. Plastic strewn around the place will be
consumed by animals and they will be badly affected. If plastic cannot be recycled, they are burnt. This causes a lot of pollution in the atmosphere.
Rajendra

Plastics should certainly be banned. In fact, it should have been done a long time ago. The government should go in for plastic bags which are bio-degradable, sturdy as well as affordable to the common man.
Raghavendra Hegde

There are many lobbyists who will definitely oppose the ban. There is a strong nexus between them and the government. Breaking that is a big social and environmental challenge.
Nitin


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