The ban on single-use plastic items, including polythene bags below 50 microns, imposed by the state government since June is losing steam as the products have begun to resurface in the city markets.
While the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and solid waste management departments of the two civic bodies in the city had initially conducted raids, penalising shopkeepers and vendors found stocking and supplying merchandise in banned polythene bags, their drive appears to have gone easy in the recent months.
Vegetable vendors in Pimpri market, retail shop owners, shopping malls and even roadside vendors are now seen selling their merchandise to customers in polythene bags, which are below 50 microns. As per the guidelines, the plastic bag must weigh over two grams and must enlist a buy-back price on the same.
“These banned items are back in circulation in the markets and the shopkeepers are openly using them,” said Raghav Prabhakar, a customer who is a regular visitor to the Pimpri vegetable market.
As per the ban, anybody found manufacturing, stocking or selling goods in these banned plastic materials could attract a fine of Rs 5,000 or more. For two months since the ban was imposed , the usage and circulation of banned polythene bags had nearly been wiped out. However, with the regulatory authorities, including the MPCB and officials at Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), no longer remaining as vigilant as they should be, plastics have returned into the chain of markets.
Yet another problem, which the state government has failed to address during all these months, is establishment of plastic waste collection and recycling centres.
There are not enough plastic waste collection centres anywhere in Maharashtra, including Pune,where a 100 per cent wet and dry waste segregation is yet to be achieved. The much-hyped plastic buy-back scheme is nothing but gathering dust,which has also derailed the initial efforts to implement a complete ban of single-use plastic items from the state.
“There are no places where we can deposit the plastic items, which are already in use or those that needs to be sent for recycling,” said Pallavi Shinde, a homemaker, who had switched to using paper and cloth-based bags.
“We will carry out an intensive drive and spread awareness among people,” said Shatrughna Kate, a PCMC corporator.