Even as the state government plans a complete ban on plastic bags from March 2018, environmentalists have said it was impractical and would be difficult to monitor. According to officials from the state Environment Department, all plastic bags, irrespective of thickness, will be banned.
Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said, “Plastic bags will be completely banned. Four teams will be visiting Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka to review the implementation, alternatives, legal framework and the reasons behind the ineffectiveness of plastic bans. We will have all the perspectives on the issue and will be in a better position to decide the alternatives and effective implementation.”
The Panvel civic body, he said, has successfully implemented the ban on plastic bags by distributing approximately 2 lakh cloth bags. “This means it can be implemented. Emphasis will be on alternatives, such as cloth or jute bags. While we are keen on bringing a legislation during the Winter Session, we want to have wider deliberations on providing alternatives. We will ensure that the alternatives will be in place before the ban,” he added.
The ministry also plans to impose a ban on plastic water bottles in government offices and hotels. Kadam said, “Alternatives to plastic bags used to dispose of wet and medical waste will also be figured out before the ban is imposed. A report by the four teams will be prepared in the next 15 days, which will include the alternatives…”
Funds received under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of major companies will be used for supplying cloth bags.
Meanwhile, environmentalists are apprehensive about the practicability of the plan. Rishi Aggarwal, an environmentalist, said, “The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, are very unambiguous but the implementation is not good. Before banning plastic bags, the state government should put in place a proper system for waste disposal.”
Pointing out the “ineffective implementation” of the current ban on plastic carry bags below 50 microns thick, he added, “It shouldn’t happen again. The state government must have a broader consultation with experts and activists to take a robust view on the issue.”
Hiten Bheda, president of All India Plastic Manufacturers Association, said, “Alternatives for plastic are heavier and inconvenient for people. Plastic is an economic necessity and provides a lot of solutions. We are setting a bad precedent by banning plastic, which will lead to loss of revenue and unemployment.”
“The government has failed in effectively implementing the ban on plastic bags below 50 microns. More than plastic bags, littering, collection and recycling are the problems. Effective waste management is required,” added Bheda.
Hutoxi Mistry, the principal of the BAI Ruttonbai F D Panday Girls High School in Mumbai Central, said, “Implementation will be a challenge. The government has to maintain its strictness throughout and not just for the initial two months. With plastic being omnipotent, the government can look for alternatives where quality of plastic currently being used can be improved.”