When the Maharashtra government imposed a state-wide ban on the use of plastic on June 23, Avadesh Kushwaha, a vegetable and fruit vendor in Vile Parle, had a mixed feeling about it. Though he was happy with the move and knew it would benefit people in the long run, yet he was a little worried if the ban would impact his business.
However, his fears were put to rest as most of his customers started getting cloth bags with them since the imposition of the ban. “Past one week, 90 percent of the customers have been carrying their own bags. Only office-goers who return late in the evening from work ask for bags,” he says.
A happy Kushwaha gives all the credit to the awareness campaigns being held in the area against the usage of plastic bags. The vendors and customers have more or less stopped using plastic bags. “In April, Mahila Sangh Karyakartas under the Swachh Parle Abhiyan told us to stop using plastic bags and switch to newspapers, brown paper and cloth bags,” he says.
On June 23, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis imposed a state-wide ban plastic, including single-use disposable items. The ban has been enforced after the state government issued the Maharashtra plastic and thermocol products (manufacture, usage, sale, transport, handling, and storage) notification in March. A three-month timeline was given to manufacturers, distributors and consumers to dispose of their existing stock and come up with alternatives.
- All kinds of plastic bags (with and without handle), garbage bags
- All one-time use disposable items made up of plastic and thermocol, such as cutlery, plates and bowls
- Plastic sheets to wrap or store products and plastic pouches to store liquid
- Non-woven polypropylene bags (a cross between paper and cloth bag)
- Disposable plastic containers used for takeaways
- PET bottles (containing soft drinks, mineral water, etc.) with a carrying capacity of less than 500 ml
- Plastic cover/plastic material used at the manufacturing stage
- Plastic used for medicines, solid waste management and agricultural products
- Compostable plastic material used for nurseries, horticulture and agriculture
- Milk bags and plastic bottles used in packaged water industry. Milk bags and bottles will have to be recycled by collecting them back; otherwise customers have to pay a nominal recycling fee to the shopkeeper
The state government’s sustained awareness campaign throughout Maharashtra has made the citizens aware about the menace of plastic pollution. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had even organised an exhibition at NSCI, Worli to showcase eco-friendly alternatives to plastic.
Happy with the plastic ban, Jal Ram Jadhav, a vendor, says that the government was earning by imposing heavy taxes on plastic manufacturers; now it will earn from other sources in line with its programme. “Once I had a fight with an NGO representative who told us to stop using plastic. I had told them to first stop manufacturing the plastic,” he says.
The BMC has even distributed navy blue polyester bags to the vendors to curb the use of plastic bags. Showing his new blue bag, Birja Yadav, a fruit and vegetable vendor, says, “BMC gave me 10 such bags of 6 kilo capacity each for free. The next time I will have to pay Rs 10 for 10 bags. I do not charge for these bags from my customers and give fruits and vegetables in them. I want BMC to provide more such bags, which are cost effective and sturdy as compared to other available options.”
Ganji Bhai, a daily-provision store owner who sells grains, pulses, namkeen, etc. in 200 micron plastic pouches, says that nowadays customers are fussy and want only packed stuff – unlike earlier when grains were sold loose. “After the ban, 80 percent customers carry their own bags. If the plastic is not available they will get used to it,” he says.
But there is one problem. Ganji Bhai says that while the move is very good, the government should have provided alternative solutions before implementing such rules. “We will have a meeting of shop owners, traders, etc. soon and will decide the future course of action,” he says.
Supporting the ban, some state-owned and private food stores and markets like Sahakari Bhandar, Star Bazaar, and Godrej Nature’s Basket have switched to brown paper bags and bio-degradable plastic bags since March. They have also started selling cloth bags at nominal prices at their outlets.
Citizens activist Subhash Rane, a resident of P North ward who has been working on waste management, says, “Garbage dumps have reduced in my ward in the last five years. In any garbage dump you find only plastic bags. If the plastic ban is successful there will be control on waste. Once people make the habit of not using plastic, things will change.”
Talking about the unhappiness with the ban on the plastic manufacturers side, he says that as the ban progresses solutions will come. “Even before the plastic came, life was going on.”
Deputy municipal commissioner, special, and in charge of the plastic ban in Greater Mumbai, Nidhi Chaudhary, says, “Some items are banned, some are allowed and others are under consideration. Food containers used by restaurants and hotels for packing food and garbage bin liners are very harmful for environment. We are working towards having alternative compostable plastic bags, which at present are not available in adequate numbers and affordable costs. Things are under consideration until alternatives are available in good numbers.”
Chaudhary further says that though some people will get adversely affected by the ban, yet largely people are in its favour. “We have deployed a large number of inspectors. On Sunday [June 24], we inspected 8,500 shops; 59 shops were using banned items. We are happy people are complying with the law. The government is serious about implementing the law,” she says.
With the ban in effect, the BMC will levy a fine of Rs 5,000 for the first offence, Rs 1,000 fine for the second time and Rs 25,000 for every subsequent violation and a three-month jail term.
(The article appears in July 15, 2018 edition)