The decision of the Maharashtra government on Saturday to ban the use of single use disposable plastic across the state has been welcomed by environmentalists as well as opposition parties. What about the people of Mumbai? They are very confused.
This confusion is palpable when one travels in the local trains. The plastic ban tops the discussion charts by a mile. Passengers debate what is allowed and what is not.
While I was travelling in one such local, I saw one lady reprimanding another for carrying some documents in a plastic bag, which she might have come into possession after shopping at a cloth store. Until recently, we all carried such bags, didn’t we?
In her defence, the other lady said it was not this type of bags that are banned, but plain polythene bags that are used to buy groceries . Their argument continued for some time before both of them alighted at the next station.
While I was not carrying any plastic bag, their argument also made me confused. Being a journalist I had the privilege of calling the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officer and seek clarification. I go the list of items which were banned and allowed from him.
Going by the BMC’s list all types of plastic carry bags irrespective of shape, size with or without handles are banned. So yes, the bag that lady was carrying fell under the banned category.
The confusion about what is banned and what is allowed is felt among the shopkeepers and hotel owners as well.
I met a
farsan store owner in Goregoan East who was quite tensed post the ban. Most of the snacks in his shop were packed in the transparent plastic bags which are now banned by the government.
“In our shop 50% products are packed in plastic packets. This is done to keep them crunchy and fresh. We can’t use eco-friendly products as that will make our food items go soft, nobody will buy them then. Brown paper bags are not just expensive but also not hygienic”, he said.
When I pointed out that the government had given everybody 3 months to prepare for this ban he said, “In these 3 months we were not able to come out with any alternative."
Restaurant owners are also facing a similar problem. Prakash Gowda who is a manager at a fast-food restaurant in Mumbai, told me since the ban there is a 60% drop in their take away food parcels. “After the ban, we are forced to pack the food in lightweight aluminium foil containers but they are not very feasible during monsoons. We don’t know how to pack liquid items such as sambar and chutney."
"The customers are not happy with the food that is being delivered to them and that’s is why they aren’t ordering. We are not against the plastic ban but government should give us some other pocket-friendly alternative,” he added.
The section that has taken the biggest hit is the plastic manufacturers. According to them almost 3 lakh people are put out of jobs directly and indirectly it would impact more than a million people.
“We have requested the government that current regulation of 50 microns be in place since the alternatives are not good for the environment. We need at least 7 years’ time to phase out this product”, said Neemit Punamiya, General Secretary, Plastic Bag Manufacturers Association of India.
He also said the state government has deputed an expert committee of which he was a part and lot of recommendations of that committee have gone to the Empowerment Committee chaired by Ramdas Kadam, State Environment Minister and hope that a lot of products may be removed from the ban.Meanwhile, the third day of the plastic ban, along with torrential rains, have left the citizens even more confused.