Can you tell…?

By Vijaylakshmi Suman

It is almost two months since NGT imposed complete prohibition on the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags, to be specific those whose thickness is which are less than 50 microns. The effect of ban is being followed by almost all established shops. Nonetheless, I have witnessed small vendors still continuing to sell their items like fruits, vegetables in plastic bags. When I inquired about the ban of plastic bags, they seemed to be nonchalant about it. In fact, there was subtle mockery in their tone for the ban imposed as they seem to have regular supply of those plastic bags.

The usual follow-up debate or discussion which generally come up, is how a certain ban is effective. One very specific problem which is being discussed in this case is about how the concerned authority is disposing it? The recycling process is not possible as the process of selection, segregation and processing doesn’t apply to the plastic material thinner than 50 microns. (“9,000 kg of plastic seized since Green Tribunal ban, but no one knows how to get rid of it”, 2017)

However, like I mentioned these are some ongoing discussion and issues post ban, I have been wondering of another aspect in respect to the same prohibition. The ban has been put on plastic bags whose thickness is less than 50 micron. But how is a common man to know which plastic bags are less than 50 micron? Plastic bags which are more than 50 micron are widely available in the market. Moreover, some vendors still continue to sell their products in plastic bag. When both plastic bags are available in market despite the ban, as an aware consumer can we differentiate if that particular plastic is less or more than 50 micron. In order to support the cause, is there any straightforward way for general public to differentiate among plastic bags which are less than 50 micron? For example, could there be a standard colour or texture of plastic bags (less than 50 micron) which would help differentiate or create better awareness among consumers than just stating some variable which cannot be measured on a day to day basis? Though if one buys full pack of plastic bags, the micron of plastic bags is mentioned on the packaging, but on single or loose plastic bag a clear indication would be more helpful to impose ban.

A recent news article (“Will banning bags in Maharashtra solve our plastic waste problem?”, 2017) mentions that a similar proposal has been made in Maharashtra to ban plastic bags.  Clogging of storm water drainage is one of the perennial issue similar to the annual flood during monsoon and ban on usage of plastic bags is a must. However, experts are of opinion that ban of plastic bags is a partial solution as several products which are available in market are packed with metalised polyester bags which is also not recyclable and is a bigger threat to the environment. Some of those products which we buy on regular basis is packaged food items, beverages in plastic bottles, and many more.

A ban on usage of plastic bags is one of the most urgent steps to save the environment. Although the usage is most among the general public, the chances of implementation of the ban will be effective if norms which are made are relatable to us. One of the ways could be, fixing a standard norms (in the form of fixed colour or texture of some evident sign) to distinguish different micron sizes of plastic available in the market. There is possibility of renouncing plastic bags by customer, and as demand stops the supply of plastic bags would stop too from the market; but if such clear norms of identification are made. Besides, a check on the products available in market, which are packaged in plastic material would also add on to the effort of banning plastic usage. Recognizing those tiny items could add on the larger issue of saving the environment.

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