THE RAILWAYS has raised a host of teething issues it is likely to encounter in implementing the plastic ban, announced by the state government recently, on railway premises, including stations and inside trains. Last month, the state government announced a complete ban on single-use plastic carry bags and thermocol cutlery. In case of violation, manufacturers and users will be fined Rs 5,000. But the government has said it will start taking punitive action only after June 23.
In a meeting held last week between licensees of catering stalls on railway stations and senior railway officials, catering staff sought clarity on dealing with plastic brought into the city by passengers from other states. According to them, passengers from elsewhere might bring back plastic bottles to stalls at railway stations in Mumbai and seek refund under a buyback scheme.
Under the buyback policy, people can bring back plastic bottles to food stalls and get a refund, a step the government feels will help implement the plastic ban. The policy has already been implemented and stalls refusing to give a refund will be penalised after June 23.
“Passengers entering Mumbai from other states may bring plastic bottles used by them during the journey to stalls here, demanding a pay back. If the passenger has not purchased the bottle at our stall, we should not be asked to refund them. And where do we store all this plastic,” asked Amit Mittal, who operates three food stalls at railway stations.
The railways has assured to work out a comprehensive policy by June 4 on the buyback mechanism. “While we favour the plastic ban, we are worried on how to go about it. The railways expects us to contact the suppliers of the products we sell and set up plastic crusher machines. As we are the third party, contacting suppliers will be difficult,” said Edul Irani, secretary of All Indian Railway Catering Association.
According to Irani, they may start using casserole paper to wrap products. “We may have to wrap eatables and perishable products in casserole paper instead of plastic. By doing this, we may have to charge extra from passengers. As we sell food at subsidised prices, our profit margins are slim and charging extra may hit business,” Irani said.
“We have advised the licensees to follow notifications. They have assured support. Some clarification on the buyback mechanism and disposal of plastic has been raised, for which we will soon draft a policy before June 23, which will be shared with manufacturers,” said a senior railway official.
According to the policy on plastic ban, officials in the BMC, district collector’s office and tehsildars, among others, will enforce the ban from next month. “We should be made answerable to the railways…,” said a licensee of a railway catering stall.
“We are equally a part of the jurisdiction and will be implementing the ban on our premises. We will also ask our staff to check if any catering staff are continuing to use plastic on railway premises,” said Shailendra Kumar, Chief Commercial Manager, Central Railway.
“We will make the railways an implementing or enforcement agency for the plastic ban,” said Satish Gavai, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment department. Another state government official said, “Firstly, there is no need to pay for plastic bottles where the deposit amount is not printed as the buyback policy is only in Maharashtra. So, such bottles need to be just collected. For those with deposit amount printed, retailers would need to pay refund. They will be reimbursed by the government from a corpus.”