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INSIDE STORY April 2018

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Although environmentalists and nature enthusiasts are rejoicing that their hard work, lobbying with government bodies and awareness campaigns over decades, has borne fruit at the announcement of the total ban of Plastic bags, many doubt that all plastic items will go off the radar from being manufactured.

Even as the Maharashtra state government implements a complete ban on plastic bags from March 2018, environmentalists say that there should be a fine imposed with immediate effect and strict vigilance carried out.

According to statements from officials from the state Environment Department, all plastic bags, irrespective of thickness, will be banned. What about the plastic casings lined inside Tetrapacks, or toys or utility items is the big question, which now needs to shift its focus a notch up from the old ban on just plastic bags which is now old news, they question. Moreover, the plastic used for the packaging of essential items like milk, water, provisions and other similar goods is being excluded from the ban due to lack of alternatives at the moment, obviously because costs of such packaged goods will definitely go up. 

Last Sunday, Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam had said, “Plastic bags will be completely banned. Four teams will be visiting other states to review the implementation, alternatives, legal framework and the reasons behind the ineffectiveness of plastic bans. We will have all the perspectives on the issue and will be in a better position to decide the alternatives and effective implementation.”

Years ago, the government has failed in effectively implementing the ban on plastic bags below 50 microns. More than plastic bags, littering, collection and recycling are the problems. Effective waste management is required at individual levels. All housing societies should have a third collection and recycling machinery in place which collects all plastic items meant for disposal, and a fourth machinery in place for medical waste as well as E-wastes too respectively.

The implementation of the current ban will have a major impact on malls, small-scale retailers, restaurants, and delivery kitchens as manufacturers, retailers and users stand to be penalized. The environment department will now have a committee to inspect and guide the public to see its success 100%.

In case of violations, individuals could end up paying a fine of Rs 5,000 if they are found using the banned items. Businesses outfits, on the other hand, could end up paying a penalty as high as Rs 50,000 and risk losing their license. All those applying for new licenses will also have to submit a new form, undertaking to their respective civic bodies and ward centers stating that they will not use banned plastic items. Join our movement to make Powai Plastic free.

(Elsie Gabriel is an award winning post graduate certified Green Teacher and Environmental Law expert. With twenty years of writing experience she has travelled to remote corners of the earth researching, photographing, documenting facts that bind the threads of anthropological wonder. Powai runs in her veins)