Tharangini Bala

In the face of continuing raids on retail outlets using plastic bags across the five zones of the city, cloth bags have slowly started appearing in shops across Bengaluru. If not, vendors themselves have started asking their customers ‘ Bag idhiya (do you have a bag?)?

Despite several drives by city authorities in the last several months to enforce the ban on plastic bags in the city, the green initiative is catching up slowly either because of the fear of the steep fines or maybe, due to awareness of the plastic menace that was ‘once a boon now becomes a bane’.

Though the ban was initially implemented in 2016 only to be openly defied now and then, this time, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) seems to be serious and is taking more effective steps to deal with the plastic menace with a sterner hand. With plastic having crept into every aspect of our daily lives, an attempt to weed it out from the city at the roots has begun with implementation of penalties on manufacture, supply storage, distribution and usage of plastics.

Karnataka is the first big state in the country to ban plastics but is still in the initial stages of enforcement, says former BBMP Solid waste management committee member N S Ramakanth. He spoke to Green Minute of the many challenges in implementing the ban. Though the rule is being enforced there are no bylaws to protect the rule and now people are contesting the rule. As a result, enforcement officers will have no teeth to implement it, he adds. Since the collection of fines for the plastic ban is not streamlined at the moment like the fines for traffic offence, there is no accountability.

Although the State Government has given authority to all departments and officials to impose the ban, only the BBMP is being held responsible to uphold the ban and this adds to the challenge, opines Ramakanth. With lack of awareness about effective alternatives, the convenience of plastics still holds the lure. Though cloth and paper bags may replace plastic bags, limited availability of viable options for plastic cutlery and packaging still pose a big problem.

Ramakanth adds every time he goes out he makes it a point to educate vendors and customers against using plastic bags. “People should get used to it. They stay only 100 meters away from the shops and still do not bring their own bags. You cannot blame the vendors also as people should make a habit of carrying their own bags which is not happening.”

Ravi who owns a Nandini retail outlet concurs. He says, “Even educated people come and argue with us and demand plastic bags to carry milk packets. They claim the packet is too cold for them to carry, but are not ready to bring bags from home. If we give bags, we get fined and if we don’t, our customers fight with us.”

To add to the problems, Ramakanth says the same plastic bag gets filled with un-segregated garbage and it comes back to BBMP. “If plastic is banned, our problem of solid waste management becomes much easier. Already with little implementation, the dry waste collection has come down by 15 per cent.”

On the ban being imposed at the manufacturing level, the waste management expert says, “The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board is responsible for imposing this ban. On paper, there are daily reports of a number of units being shut down by the board. But from reports reaching the BBMP officials, these units operate surreptitiously in the midnight and somehow send the plastic bags which reach the market. The street vendors too say ‘stop the production’ and then we will stop using plastic bags. But the crux of the matter is consumers should start using cloth bags and refuse plastic bags. With no demand, the supply will automatically stop.”

Comments (2)

  1. Very good message

  2. True. Very good article.
    Plastic is such a concern world over.
    In my recent travel to the US, I was surprised that the plastic awareness amongst consumers is not even at the level of what you find in Bengaluru. Plastic bags are freely used.
    I recently got to know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and was shocked at the extent of our waste mis management and the lack of awareness. Even when awareness is there, the attitude of”what damage can 1 more plastic bag do” is there.
    The truth is, 1 more plastic bag will do more damage and 1 more aware person can make the change.

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