The implementation of the Maharashtra government’s ambitious plan to ban almost all plastic carry bags and single-use plastic, such as disposable plates and cutlery, food packaging and dozens of other items, kicked in on Friday after the Environment Department issued a notification in the evening.
The government has proposed fines of Rs 5,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000 for the first three offences, with the maximum punishment for violation of the ban being a three-month jail term, but these are not to be implemented immediately.
According to the Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products (Manufacture, Usage, Sale, Transport, Handling and Store) Notification, 2018, the manufacture, usage, sale, storage and transport of products made from plastic and thermocol will be banned with immediate effect across the state.
Manufacturers, producers, sellers, traders, retailers and users have been granted a month to finish the existing stock of the banned items. These may either by handed over to the local government body for scientific disposal or through sale to an authorised recycler.
The banned items under the notification include plastic bags with and without handles, disposable products manufactured from plastic and thermocol such as single-use disposable dishes, cups, plates, glasses, forks, bowls, containers, non-woven polypropylene bags, cups/pouches to store liquids, plastic packaging to wrap or store products, packaging of food items and foodgrain. The use of plastic and thermocol for decorations or buntings has also been banned.
However, the government has made an exception for plastic bags or plastic used for packaging of medicines, compostable plastic bags or material used for plant nurseries, horticulture, agriculture and handling of solid waste. However, the government has made it mandatory for manufacturers to print prominently on these items that they are to be used exclusively for that purpose. Also exempted from the ban are manufacturing plastic and plastic bags for exports in Special Economic Zone and plastic cover or wrapping material at the manufacturing stage of various items.
To encourage reuse and recycling, the Environment Department announced a Buy Back Depository Scheme for PET and PETE bottles, and milk bags. Through this scheme, a deposit paid to the retailer can be collected upon handing the bottles or pouches back to the store.
Also, any person, group of people, welfare organisations, industrial associations and members of all local bodies have been invited to come forward and register offences with the authorised officer concerned. These vigilante individuals/groups will help authorised officers by providing information on violations and also in assisting them in imposing fines, confiscating material and registering offences. “We will work out the modalities for effective implementation and to ensure that this doesn’t become a nuisance,” said an official in the Environment Department.
“We will not fine people immediately. They have been given one month’s time period to dispose of the existing stock. Sensitisation is required first for effective implementation of the ban,” added the official.
The state government has authorised municipal officials, officials from the district collector’s office and Zilla Parishads, MPCB, Health, Education, Tourism, traffic police, state tax officials and others for imposing fines and enforcing the ban.