India’s ambitious goal to get rid of single-use plastic by 2022 is finally seeing some light. The Maharashtra government has decided to put a ban on plastic in the state. The ban will come into effect from today. It has become the 18th Indian state to put a complete ban on plastic. All said and done but what happens next? Turns out it’s not the rules but their implementation which is the major challenge that states and Union Territories face.
A long list of various products is to be banned. These products are manufactured from plastic and thermocol including plastic bags and pouches, disposable cups, plates, spoons, forks, straws, plastic packaging material and plastic used for storing and packaging food items. The items exempted from the list include plastic used in the packaging of medicine and drug, milk, plastic bags used for horticulture and agriculture purposes, dustbin liners, the plastic used for handling of solid waste, for exporting goods and used at the manufacturing stage.
The ban was imposed by the Maharashtra government back in March 23 and a 3 month window was provided to get rid of the existing stock, which closes today. From now on, anyone with the possession of the listed plastic products would be charged with heavy fine. For first-timers, fine is set to be Rs 5,000 and for second-timers, it is Rs 10,000. But for the third time offenders, the fine is Rs 25,000 along with a jail term of three months.
According to the PTI, Environment minister, Ramdas Kadam mentioned that the common people would not be troubled. “We will ensure that common people and small traders are not harassed. But strict action will be taken again for plastic manufacturers (if they break the law)”.
The ban is implemented and monitored by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). The focus is on the retail packaging and plastic manufacturers. An extension of 3 months is given to these companies to submit their recycling plans.
The Same Old Story?
It’s not the first time an Indian state has decided to ban plastic. Maharashtra produces more than 4 lakh tonnes of waste annually, making it the biggest plastic producing state in India. The decision to ban plastic is supposed to cut down the unabated plastic use but the history paints a different picture.
The plastic bags are banned in 17 Indian states and Union Territories but that exists only on paper. The plastic bags are easily available in these places. On the ground level, they are used indiscriminately by the common population. Hardly, anyone is fined.
Polyethene bags below the length of 50 microns were banned in 2016 in the whole country by the union government as they cannot be recycled. But these bags are continued to be sold and kept and they often clog the drains and pipes causing floods and other atrocities.
The election time is also one of the major factor driving the plastic ban implementation. The election campaigns are generally swarmed with big promises of strict laws and regulations for ending plastic pollution. But once the battle is over, nothing changes and everything settles down slowly.
Environmentalists are happy to see some change and welcomed the decision while plastic companies are outraged. And they have all the reasons to be so. The ban will be a huge blow to their businesses. But unfortunately, after some time, the common crowd would be able to relate too. It’s difficult to end the dependency of mankind on plastic unless there is some eco-friendly alternative which has to be equally or more durable and affordable as plastic.
The odds seem against on this one. But the power of the will can move mountains. A collective effort of authorities and society might just do the trick. We’re hopeful.
Image Credits- Lance Grandahl via Unsplash