Maharashtra Minister for Environment Ramdas Kadam on Saturday dismissed fears that the ban announced on Friday on almost all plastic carry bags and single-use plastic articles and thermocol would lead to a rise in unemployment because of the impact on manufacturers.
“Almost 80 per cent of this plastic is imported from other states and only 20 per cent is produced in the state. The loss of employment will be small, but we will try to resolve their issues as well. Plastic is the cause for diseases and this ban will lead to saving many lives,” Kadam said.
The government also clarified that one month has been given to producers, retailers, traders and to consumers to get rid of their existing stock of the banned products. “The industries should sell their stock in other states. If the producers have large stocks, then we will give them more time to dispose it. We will make sure there is no injustice on anyone,” he said. Kadam said the government would take steps to make cloth bags readily available in the market.
“I have urged guardian ministers of all districts to raise funds for innovative schemes to manufacture cloths bags. We will bring in women’s self-help groups also into the manufacturing the cloth bags,” he said, adding that Rs 5 crore has been given to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to set up collection facilities at the earliest.
He also reiterated that if the buy-back system for milk bags is not implemented effectively in the next three months, then milk dairies would be made to supply milk in glass bottles as they used to do earlier. According to officials of the Environment Department, almost 1,800 tonnes of plastic garbage is generated in the state daily. There are 455 units that manufacture plastic carry bags and containers, and around 900 units that make plastic bottles. “The buy-back system will put in place a system for recycling and it may lead to a rise in recycling start-ups as well,” said an official.
Another official said that the deposit sum is higher for smaller water bottles to discourage their production. “For the 0.5 litre bottle, the deposit is Rs 2 and it is Re 1 for bottles of 1-litre capacity. Bottles with a capacity lower than 0.5 litre have been banned completely. The reason is that the per day sale of 250 ml water bottles is 30 lakh while sales of half-litre bottles is 20 lakh. For bottles that hold 1 litre and above, the sale is 12 lakh per day. That’s why we have kept higher deposits for smaller bottles. We want to discourage them in the long run,” explained the official.
Officials also said they will issue a circular in the coming days clarifying the details on the imposition of fines on violators. A booklet on the banned items and alternatives is also to be released soon. “We will not fine the violators immediately as our focus is on sensitisation of people. We will run extensive awareness campaigns on television, in newspaper, over radio and on social media for the next two months,” said the official, adding that the civic bodies will have to arrange for collection and transportation of the existing stock from citizens, retailers and manufacturers.
The official further said the state government would help plastic manufacturers’ associations to set up collection points but the recycling of the collected plastic waste would be the manufacturers’ responsibility.
The All India Plastic Manufacturers Association said it is analysing the impact of the notification on the industry. “Though a large quantity of plastic is indeed imported from outside the state, there is huge consumption in Mumbai and Maharashtra that gives a lot of employment opportunities to people. There will be an impact. Everything looks good on paper but implementation is difficult. It will cause a lot of inconvenience to people. We still believe that the effective implementation of the plastic waste management rules 2016 would resolve many issues related to plastic,” Hiten Bheda, the president of the association, said.
Government officials said they will soon set up a mechanism to ensure proper collection of banned plastic items at airports and railway stations so that people who buy such products in other states are able to dispose them of legally at the entry points of the city.
According to the notification issued on Friday by the Environment Department, the import of the banned items would be considered a violation as well. “We will put in place a mechanism for collection at airports and railways stations. These would be facilities where those who buy or are in possession of the banned plastic items can discard them. Subsequently, we will go in for fining people if this is not followed,” said an official.