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Is plastic ban working?

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The state government had imposed a plastic ban in Maharashtra on June 23, 2018. Plastic bags were banned with an intention to curb the usage of plastic in day to day lives. The decision was taken to ban single-use plastic and articles made from thermocal. The fine for the first time and second-time offenders was fixed at 5,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively. The third violation attracts a fine of Rs 25,000 and jail term for three months. Choking of drains during monsoon season was another reason behind the ban of plastic bags.

Every year, the BMC workers remove tonnes of plastic being disposed of in nullahs. Initially, the plastic ban was working effectively with the BMC conducting raids at various shops and hawking establishments. The penalty was imposed on those sellers who were stocking plastic bags and using them for daily transactions. Many shopkeepers had stopped giving plastic bags and asked customers to bring cloth bags from home for their daily shopping needs. Malls replaced plastic bags with paper and cloth bags. Customers were also bringing containers to buy chicken, fish and liquid items.

The ban enforced by the state government on the plastic ban was diluted five days after it was implemented and the state government allowed shop keepers to use plastics for wrapping food and grocery items for a period of three months. The government also had framed a buyback policy for these plastic bags. The buyback scheme was launched for plastic bags, tetra packs, milk pouches, and pet bags. Maharashtra was the first state in India to announce a buyback scheme for plastics. The state government had announced a barcode scheme where it had asked manufacturers to give barcodes to the products they manufacture.

Despite the passage of eleven months after the plastic ban was enforced, shopkeepers continue to use plastic bags. They have also found out a new way to overcome the plastic ban. Many shopkeepers and vegetable sellers were seen handing out thick plastic bags without a handle to customers. Several of them even claimed that such plastic bags are not banned. They were only misusing a loophole wherein plastic bags without handles are exempted from the ban. This act has also created confusion among BMC inspection teams enforcing the plastic ban.

A plastic ban has failed to work in slum pockets of the city. Slum-dwellers throw plastic in nullahs thereby choking them during monsoon season. Plastic bags disrupt the flow of water. The ban imposed on plastic by BMC has not made any difference. Tonnes of plastic bags are found in nullahs while desilting drains prior to the monsoon season. Plastic bags choke the flow of water and are the main reason behind the city experiencing water logging incidents during heavy rainfall. Even though the civic body spends crores of rupees to clean nullahs slum-dwellers continue to dump daily waste in plastic bags. There also has been a sharp surge in the quantity of plastic bags disposed of in drains. Thus, there is a need to create awareness among citizens about disposing of waste and its segregation which will reduce flooding incidents during the rainy season.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)
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