In a meeting with senior government officials on Tuesday, Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said that plastic bags would not be allowed in the state after Gudi Padwa on March 18, 2018. While a ban on plastic bags less than 50 microns in thickness has been in effect across the state since February 24, 2015, lack of proper implementation has kept the bags in rampant use even now.
“The ban could not be implemented due to lack of people’s acceptance that it is harmful to the environment. Even if they are aware about its effect, they continue to use it as they place their convenience over the environment,” said Satish Gavai, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment Department.
However, the ministry hopes that things will be different this time as they have placed greater stress on creating awareness and providing alternatives. “We will try to create awareness regarding its harmful effects, but presuming it doesn’t help, we will also provide alternatives for plastic bags through the state,” added Gavai. The decision will be publicised through All India Radio, FM radio stations and Doordarshan.
As part of the initiative, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) will provide eco-friendly bags to vendors at subsidised rates. They also intend to rope in corporates who can chip in as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. While MPCB will take the initiative, Municipal Corporations across the state will have to take responsibility to ensure the ban is implemented.
“Single-use plastic has no place in the 21st century and it has to be banned including for packaging. The government’s decision is a welcome step, however, it needs to be implemented,” said Afroz Shah, who said that through his beach clean-up movement at Versova, he has collected over 7.2 million kg of plastic from the ocean.
However, the plastic ban decision was not welcomed by vegetable vendors who feel it will adversely hit their business. “If we do not provide plastic bags, people do not tend to buy vegetables.
The government may ask people to carry cloth bags but who does it? Often, people buy vegetables on a whim when they pass by. We will completely lose those customers,” said Anand Gupta, a vegetable vendor at Malad East.