As Maharashtra government’s state-wide ban on the use of plastic products, including single-use disposable items, came into effect Saturday, people in Mumbai were seen using sustainable alternatives like jute and cloth bags. Usage of plastic bags, however, continued to be seen in some parts of the city.
The ban comes in the backdrop of the environmental risks and harm posed by plastic items to wild animals from ingestion or entanglement. 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 on March 23, this year. It 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.
The government has also notified that the first-time and the second-time offenders will be fined Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, respectively. While, the third-time violator will face a fine of Rs 25,000, along with imprisonment of three months.
However, there are some plastic items that are excluded from the ban. It includes plastic used for packaging medicines and drugs, exporting goods, plastic used at the manufacturing stage and handling of solid waste, food grade virgin plastic used for packaging milk and compostable packaging bags used for horticulture and agriculture purposes.
Asserting that the plastic ban can succeed only if all the stakeholders support the move, Chief Minister Fadnavis said, “The ban will succeed only with the participation of all the stakeholders and that the government has made a committee to ensure trouble-shooting and smooth adaptation. We do not want to promote police raj and we are also trying to address the concerns of traders and small vendors. ”
“We want to promote responsible use of plastic. Therefore, we have banned the kind of plastic that cannot be collected, regulated and recycled. The ban puts the onus on the polluters, but at the same time, some exceptions have been made so that businesses are not hampered till alternatives have a strong presence in the market,” Fadnavis said.
Maharashtra environment minister Ramdas Kadam said that the decision was taken for the betterment of the state. “It is good that plastic is getting banned in the state. Maharashtra has become the 18th state to ban plastic. Plastic is a problem for everyone. This decision has been taken for the betterment of the state,” Kadam said.
“All kinds of plastic bags, irrespective of their thickness, tea cups, glasses, thermocol glasses, thermocol used for decoration, plastic used in hotels to parcel food like boxes, spoons have been banned from today,” Kadam said.
“Almost 80 per cent of plastic required (in the state) is produced in Gujarat and it is being brought into Maharashtra illegally. Henceforth, if any plastic is brought into Maharashtra from any state, strict action would be taken,” the minister said, adding that around 1,200 tonnes of plastic is generated in Maharashtra that damages the environment.
Asserting that the plastic ban can succeed only if all the stakeholders support the move, Chief Minister Fadnavis said, “The ban will succeed only with the participation of all the stakeholders and that the government has made a committee to ensure trouble-shooting and smooth adaptation. We do not want to promote police raj and we are also trying to address the concerns of traders and small vendors.
Explaining more on what type of products have been exempted, Kadam said that plastic and thermocol used by manufacturing companies, materials used in hospitals like saline bottles, and boxes used to store medicines, plastic pens, milk pouches that are above 50 microns in thickness have been exempted from the ban. “Plastic and thermocol used for packaging television sets, fridges, computers as well as raincoats, plastic used for storing food grains and that used in nurseries for plants and also plastic in which biscuits, chips, are packaged, etc has been exempted from the ban,” he said.
Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray also hailed the ban and said although people will have to face some difficulty initially, they will get used to it over the time. “This decision will change the destiny of our future generations. I am sure this decision taken by the government will serve as an example for the entire world,” he said.
Thackeray said work towards the ban on plastic was initiated in August last year, when it was found that plastic had led to major water-logging in Mumbai following continuous downpour. “A lot of plastic and thermocol was found stuck in gutters which rendered our pumping stations useless and caused flooding in the city. We have since been working on banning use of plastic,” he added.
Following the ban, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has also donated four bottle crushing machines at railway stations, two at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, one at Churchgate and the other at Mumbai Central.
Meanwhile, to reuse the discarded plastic that will pile up because of the ban, Maharashtra government has decided to make the use of such plastic mandatory for tarring of roads.
On the other hand, 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.
Reacting to affidavits filed regarding this, the Bombay High Court on Friday said that it will decide a date for hearing the final arguments on a petition filed by the Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers on July 20.
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