From June 23, India’s second-populous state Maharashtra has started penalising all those found using plastic products, including single-use disposable items. The Devendra Fadnavis-led state government enforced the ban after issuing the Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products (manufacture, usage, sale, transport, handling, and storage) notification in March this year. The government had given the manufacturers, distributors, and consumers a period of three months to dispose their existing stock and come up with alternatives to plastic usage.
While environmentalists welcomed the cabinet’s decision, the plastic industry has slammed the government calling it “retrograde step.” With its huge dependence on plastic and lack of alternatives to the banned products, many also wonder if the plan would be a success. Here is all you need to know about the Maharashtra plastic ban:
What is the plastic ban about and when was it implemented?
The Maharashtra government on March 23, 2018, banned the manufacture, usage, sale, transport, distribution, wholesale and retail sale and storage, import of plastic bags with or without handle, and disposable products made out of plastic and thermocol. Citing the environmental risks and harm caused to wild animals from ingestion or entanglement in plastic, the government enforced the ban with immediate effect.
What all plastic products are covered under the ban?
Under the notification products manufactured from plastic and thermocol have been covered under the ban. As a result usage of plastic bags with a handle and without handle, disposable cups, and plates, spoons, forks, glasses, and containers is prohibited in the state. Plastic packaging used to wrap and store the product is also included in the ban.
Apart from this plastic straw, non-woven polypropene bags, pouches and any other plastic used to store, package and transfer food items will no longer be permitted in the state. Besides, it has banned the use of plastic and thermocol for decoration purposes.
Plastic items excluded from the ban
* Plastic used for packaging medicines and drugs
* Food grade virgin plastic used for packaging milk
* Compostable packaging bags used for horticulture and agriculture purposes
* Plastic bags used for exporting goods
* Plastic used at the manufacturing stage
* Plastic used for handling of solid waste
What is the fine if found using these plastic products?
As per the notification, violators will be fined Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 for the first and second-time offense. A third-time offender will have to shell out Rs 25,000 and may also face imprisonment for a period of three months.
While the ban will be implemented within Maharashtra, passengers coming to the state from other parts of the country are also expected to maintain caution while disposing plastic at stations.
Who will implement and monitor the ban?
Officials from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and district and local administration have been authorised to implement it. For regulating this law at tourist locations, tourism police, or Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation has been made responsible.
The government has also formed an association comprising of plastic manufacturers, ministry officials and environmental experts to oversee the implementation of the ban.
Confusion on the ground
While the notification was passed in March, the government has revised it multiple times over the course of three months. Many in the state are still awaiting a clarity on how the mechanism will it work.
The government has come up with ‘Buy Back’ policy where the stall owner is expected to offer money in return over the plastic bottle deposited by the user. While the state government is expected to repay the amount shelled by stall owners in payback, licensees claimed no official communication has been received. “Without a sufficient number of crushing machines at stations, disposing of plastic bottles would not be possible. With only four days left for the ban, we are not sure as to what has to be done of the available bottles,” Amit Mittal, proprietor of three stalls at railway said.
On the other hand, the dairy operators in the state have been ordered to put in place a buyback mechanism for plastic milk pouches till July 11. Besides this, they are also not allowed to use plastic bags less than 50 microns thickness to package the milk. They should print a buyback price, of not less than Rs 0.50, for the pouches. Officials of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Milk Federation, an apex federation of district and taluka-level milk unions, said that they have written to the state dairy development and environment departments seeking more information. “We have asked for clarity on how to set up the recollection mechanism and how the refund system will work,” said an official from the federation.
“Using plastic bags above 50 microns and setting up the buyback mechanism for recycling will put an additional financial burden on dairies. So, the government should guide us in setting up the mechanism and also provide some funds. Otherwise, it may lead to increase in milk prices,” Arun Narke, former president of Indian Dairy Association and director of Gokul Dairy in Kolhapur, said.
Mumbai-based NGO, Vanshakti, which works for safeguarding the environment, welcomed the government’s decision saying such a ban should have rather been brought 10 years ago. “The menace and damage caused by excessive careless and needless use of plastic has caused a massive damage to the ecosystem,” the NGO’s convener, Stalin D, said. “The burning and degradation of plastic releases carcinogenic toxins. The micro-plastics have entered our food chain. Wherever plastic is needed for packaging like the milk pouches, there cellulose-based compostable plastic can be used,” he suggested, PTI reported.
Commercial bodies, like the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association, the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India, say the ban would have an adverse impact on the Rs 50,000-crore industry, besides affecting the ancillary units.
MCCI’s vice president Lalit Gandhi said the ban on plastic bags has derailed the production, packaging and supply schedules of the grains, bakery and clothing industries. “Many units are on the verge of closure in the absence of the basic packaging material – the plastic bags – and we fear that nearly three lakh people employed there may become jobless,” he said.
Aaditya Thackeray on plastic ban
Yuva Sena President Aaditya Thackeray on Thursday said unlike demonetisation, officials had been preparing for the plastic ban move for the last nine months. The leader said there has been a lot of awareness about the plastic ban and only the willful offenders are worried about the fine.