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Unmoved by plastic ban notification,shopkeepers rally for alternatives

Various shopkeepers’ associations have asked the government to stall implementation of the blanket ban on use of plastic bags before alternatives are more easily available.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi |
January 17, 2009 12:16:33 am

Various shopkeepers’ associations have asked the government to stall implementation of the blanket ban on use of plastic bags before alternatives are more easily available. The demand was made at a meeting of the associations on Friday — it comes following the recent government notification banning use of plastic under the Environment Protection Act (EPA).

“If the government doesn’t provide us with cheap alternatives,the customer will end up paying for the packaging,leading to an increase in prices,” said Praveen Khandelwal,secretary general of the Confederation of Indian Traders. “If the government provides us technical and financial assistance,the trade association might install fabrication units to manufacture eco-friendly paper bags or jute bags.

“We have representatives from both high-end and low-end markets. Everyone feels that the ban can be put into effect only after an alternative mechanism is installed. Shopkeepers will not bear unreasonable packaging costs,” he added.

As reported by Newsline earlier,the government had climbed down from its earlier stand and allowed the use of degradable plastic bags in shopping centres,seen as a middle path following a July 2008 High Court order that called for a total ban on plastics in prominent commercial areas. A blanket ban was subsequently announced in October on plastic bags in major shopping centres,large hospitals and hotels in the city last year.

The High Court order had also specified that plastic bags of 40 microns would be allowed in the city in areas where the ban did not apply,like minor shopping areas. The recent notification,however,is silent on the 40-micron limit,instead calling only for bio-degradable bags.

The government,however,is yet to put in place a system to create bio-degradable or alternative bags,or inspection teams to check for violations of the Act.

The government is at present counting on awareness to implement the blanket ban. “We will be acting on complaints. If someone is found using a plastic bag,we will slap a penalty on him,” said Environment Secretary J K Dadoo.

On Friday,Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit held a meeting to discuss the issue.

Penalties under the EPA amount to a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh or imprisonment up to five years.

At present,there is no major supply of bio-degradable bags,which are more expensively priced than regular plastic in the city.

The Department of Environment maintains that it will consider providing subsidies to alternatives if they are presented with good proposals.

Government officials said they will now focus on increasing awareness on banning plastic and acting on specific complaints.

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