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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blanket ban on plastic bags at malls, markets

State's latest proposal – where shopkeepers won't even be allowed to stock good quality plastic bags – comes after previous measures have failed to reduce usage

    The state government is all set to introduce even more stringent measures to curb the use of plastic across Maharashtra, one of them being a blanket ban on plastic bags at malls, markets, educational institutions, government offices, tourist and heritage spots and eco-fragile zones. 
    While this may not be a complete ban on plastic, the state's idea to target areas where plastic bags are used and sold the most is sure to drastically bring down their use. Another factor that will boost their effort is a proposal to fine individuals carrying really flimsy, non-recyclable plastic bags (or those weighing less than 50 microns). 
    On Thursday, a meeting regarding amendment the Maharashtra Non Bio-degradable Garbage (Control) Act of 2006 to introduce these new measures, was held at state environment minister Sanjay Deotale's office. "We had a discussion on how we could make the current regulations stronger," Deotale told Mumbai Mirror. 
    Theamendmentproposalislikely to be placed before the cabinet in the next fortnight. 
    The move comes on the heels of the BMC's recent decision to ban all plastic bags on their premises. That rule, officials in the civic body said, proved extremely effective. The state government has basically decided to adapt that plan on a bigger scale. "Therewillbeacompletebanonplastic in malls, so shoppers will have to carrytheirownbags–plasticorotherwise," a environment department officer told Mumbai Mirror. 

    A leading mall owner, however, said the State would find it hard to go through with their plan. "This ban willaffectmostshops.Wearesurethe plastic industry and retailers will appeal this ban," he said. 
    The first steps towards decreasing the use of plastic in Mumbai had come in the aftermath of the 2005 floods, when the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had issued a complete ban on plastic bags (which had clogged the drains and escalated the crisis). 
    Soon after that ban, however, plastic-bag manufacturers met cabinet ministers and convinced them to dilute the ban. It was now alright to 
carry bags that weighed more than 50 microns (the sturdier ones that could be used more than once). 
    More recently, the union envi
ronment ministry came up with a directive asking shopping establishments to charge for plastic bags. 
    But none of these measures have made a big dent in the use of plastic, forcing environment department officers to propose these fresh measures. 
    "Apart from the ban at malls and other places where use of plastic is high, we are going to insist individual users are penalised. Hopefully, this will ensure people stop using flimsy plastic bags," an official said. 
    Environmentalist Rishi Agarwal said, "This is a commendable move, butauthoritiesmustdoeverythingin their power to enforce the ban."

A file photo of visitors leaving plastic bottles and bags at the entrance of the Byculla zoo, where a ban on plastic is in place


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