The perils of plastic: Maharashtra ban deserves support

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“Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.”

– Pablo Casals

 

Mumbai on June 23 became the first city in India to have implemented a plastic ban. With plastic pollution in the international limelight this year, Maharastra’s ban on plastic stands out as a shining example in India’s larger effort to align with international priorities. This has come just when the Narendra Modi-led NDA government has pledged to ban all single-use plastics by 2022, which has been welcomed by both the United Nations and grassroots groups. It was announced by none other than Prime minister Modi during a World Environment Day summit at New Delhi. The Maharashtra government in March this year, issued a notification prohibiting usage of all single-use plastic bags, besides also banning the manufacturing and sale of such plastic bags.Mumbaikars have to let go using plastic bags, disposable plastic cutlery, disposable thermocol items, plastic wrap used for packaging and storage, non-woven polypropyleme bags, plastic pouches for storing liquid, plastic packaging for food items, plastic and thermocol decoration. 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. It is naturally disruptive, and Mumbai,it seems, is trying to adapt quickly.  As per the notification, violators will be fined Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 for the first and second-time offense respectively. A third-time offender will have to shell out Rs 25,000 and may also face imprisonment for a period of three months. The Maharashtra government’s ban deserves a wholehearted support from citizens although the state is not directly providing alternatives to banned items and has relied on people for solutions.

However, the ban has ignited much debate and got people talking about the perils of plastic. Environmental experts have been blaming plastic for choking of drains in Mumbai and the flooding in parts of the city during monsoons. Ironically, two days after the ban was clamped , Mumbai faced massive waterlogging, thanks to incessant rains since Sunday. This has been a perennial problem for the past decade, and one of the main culprits is plastic, which clogs the city’s drainage system. The story is same for all other major cities of the country including Guwahati. Despite the initiatives taken during the World Environment Day to turn the markets in Guwahati into plastic-free zones by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC), shopkeepers and people are still continuing the use ‘single-use’ plastic bags. Awareness drives in the past had done little to bring about a change in the mindset of the people.

The question is what does a ban on plastic really mean to the average Indian citizen? To the people employed in the industry, it could mean the shutdown of factories and potential job losses. Though people are willing to stop using plastic carry bags but the lack of options for packaging material remains their biggest problem. To the consumer, it would mean choosing between alternatives that are either too expensive, impractical or not as easily available. There is no denying that consumers will be ready to make the switch, but they need good alternatives, which should be cheaper as well as sustainable.

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