It seems like the Fadnavis government has come up with a long-awaited and much needed gift for the Maharashtrians on the occasion of Marathi New Year or Gudi Padwa. A bulk of single-use plastic items like carry bags, thermocol, plates, cups, forks, bowls and spoons will very soon become a history in the state as the Maharashtra cabinet on Thursday decided to impose a ban on using them across the state from March 18.
The decision will be enforced across urban and rural areas of the state. Failing to adhere to the laws, it will penalise both manufacturers and users. The punishment will attract a fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 and a jail term of three months. While there are incentives to the law abiders, in case of violation, proposal to slap a penalty such as non-renewing of licences for shops and industries also exists.
Though the draft of the proposed ban had also mentioned other plastic items such as flex boards, non-woven polypropylene bags, banners, flags, decorative door hangings, plastic sheets and all types of plastic wrappers, an official from the state environment department stated that an empowered committee under the Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam has been formed to discuss the ban on rest of the plastic goods. “The committee will prepare the roadmap for banning rest of the plastic goods. On Friday, a ban on plastic was approved in principle, but the committee will decide the further action plan,” the official added.
Saurabh Gupta, Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Earth5R greeted the move saying, “It’s a good step at the very right time. It will be helpful to protect the environment and prevent global warming, monsoon flooding, earth’s climate imbalance, etc. Shopkeepers and citizens should also support this decision. We can use other traditional options than using plastic.”
Maharashtra government had already imposed ban on plastic bags thinner than 50 microns and smaller than 8×12 inches after the 2005 deluge that brought down the financial capital and its suburbs to its knees and claimed nearly 700 lives. But, the step proved to be very less effective to prevent clogging and choking drains.
This time, it has been reported that the government is planning to scrap plastic use in two phases that will include both short and a long-term policies to challenge the threats of plastic pollution. Referencing to environmental risks and public health hazards, the cabinet has put forth a firm stand to strictly enforce the ban in a time-bound manner.
CPI (M) leader Ajit Abhyankar appreciated the ban but said the implementation is most important. “Government needs to develop an alternative of plastic and also bring strong law to support the ban! Disposal of plastic is the real issue and not the use of plastic. Government uses such bans as an opportunity for new corruption. I’m not against this law but it needs proper implementation without corruption and with the visibility of proper implications,” he added.
Kadam had last year announced that the state will ban plastic items completely from March 18 this year. Plastic manufacturers had recently held a protest in Mumbai opposing the proposed ban. Keeping their concerns in mind, the administration has decided to offer them adequate time frame to switch over to alternative modes of businesses.
The authority is planning to replace the supply of plastic milk pouches with environmental friendly containers or bottles. Initiatives are there to promote environment friendly containers like cloth bags, bio-degradable containers, bottles, plates, cups, etc. as an alternative idea for the existing plastic industry.
Plastic items are contaminating our environment everyday. Around 8.8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year. Apart from being a visual pollution, this non-biodegradable menace is a real threat for both marine and land animals and humans are also its direct victims. This cheap and easy way to carry our goods is posing serious havoc for our planet. Hope govt’s recent decision would mark a significant change towards waste and pollution elimination and responsibility will rest on all — the taxpayers, administrative bodies and the state Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
Though citizens have welcomed the ban, Gopal Rathi, former president of Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers Association expressed, “This decision will affect our industry directly and indirectly where 2.5 lakh people are employed. It will also affect the small scale industries. Plastic manufacturing is not the main problem but proper implementation of solid waste management must be followed. Government should improve the waste management system rather than imposing ban on plastic.”