Mumbai: The ban on sale of plastic bags by the Devendra Fadanvis government in Maharashtra is fast becoming one that has left users and the producers fuming. Although the move was announced with the noble intention of reducing the plastic waste in the Financial Capital of the country, those implementing the ban have unleashed more chaos than solutions.
The state government had banned plastic of all forms from March 18, the day of Gudi Padwa. But within 10 days of the start of the programme, it rolled back a ban on plastic bottles after a promise from the Plastic Bottles Manufacturers Association that a proper buyback mechanism for smaller bottles will be put in place. The association also agreed that it would set up 1000 bottle crushers across the state.
On Wednesday, an association in Maharashtra filed a petition against the Maharashtra Government's ban on plastic below 50 microns. The Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers association, a Pune-based petitioner, argued that 56000 people will be rendered jobless by the ban. Ravi Jaishnani, the association's President, was quoted as saying that the plastic industry in Maharashtra employed close to 200000 people across various districts and their livelihoods were at stake.
The Maharashtra Plastic Manufacturers association is not the first one to claim a loss of jobs. Another industry source suggests that close to 300000 jobs are at risk.
The Mahalaxmi Griha Udyog that produces the famous Lijjat Papad too had complained that a ban on plastic will take a toll when it came to maintaining the quality of its product.
Industry insiders have said that the loss in jobs from the ban will impact GDP, and also increase the NPAs in the plastic sector. How job losses will end up having such an impact in a largely unorganised sector that is labour intensive is quite another matter. Also, there are indeed newer avenues opening up for these manufacturers.
Organisations and associations making these claims of job losses seem to miss the opportunities the ban has created.
For instance the ban has opened up a potential surge in demand for paper and cloth bags. Besides, there are newer opportunities in scaling up the business from polythene bags to manufacturing of moulds, chairs, other packaging materials in the non-50 micron category.
Customers and small-time merchants too haven't taken kindly to the decision. While the ban does not cover milk pouches and medicines, retailers selling groceries, food grains, vegetables and fruits have had a difficult time with their customers. Municipal officials have been authorised to impose fines ranging from Rs 5000 to Rs 25000, besides confiscating goods put up on sale by shopkeepers and hawkers who use these plastic bags.
Retailers from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai (twin district) complain that claiming their confiscated goods and also paying fines is both tedious and financially unviable. Hence they are left with no option but to turn away many customers who ask for a plastic bag. Customers, meanwhile, complain of the lack of convenience, and end up asking if a plastic ban makes any sense.
A similar ban was enforced by civic officials after the July 2006 flash floods in Mumbai. Back then, the clogging of Mithi river owing to plastic resulted in civic officials coming up with a ban. The ban did not stick for long, but plastic certainly has.
India's metropolitan cities are not new to Garbage. This image from Delhi, where a similar ban has been in existence since October 2017.
Customers and plastic manufacturers have termed the current ban discriminatory. While plastic under 50 microns has been banned, the ones used in packaging of Gutka, Supari, Shampoo Sachets, and even snacks can still be used. Normal plastic bags, according to reports could be recycled, but the ones made using multi-layers of plastic were not recyclable.
When it comes to solutions, paper bags have been cited as equally damaging, if not more so, at least by a British research paper. The paper published in 2011 suggests that single-use paper bags contributed to global warming. So, using a a paper bag does not make you an environment savvy person, unless you use a paper bag multiple times. The study adds, a paper bag must be used four or more times to reduce the global warming to lesser than conventional plastic bags.
A handful of interesting tweets:
#maharashtragovernment ready to cut approx. 4000 trees at #Aarey #Mumbai fr Metro Car-shed but imposes plastic ban to fool ppl in name of environment.— TrollsKaKaal (@NareshBhalla) March 18, 2018
Plastic ban is Welcome but kindly bring its feasible & viable alternative. #HappyGudiPadva #ResponsiblePlastic
We. Want make waste free India not plastic free India if Plastic is ban people will throw paper an all multinational product pouch on road then what you will do better to educated people— Bharat Mehta (@BharatM98240738) April 4, 2018
Recently a lot of opposition and criticism from educated Mumbai residents about the plastic bags ban, suggesting alternate and better ways of of disposing plastic waste. But the BMC appears to be lending deaf ears.— Rokny Henry Pio (@RoknyPio) April 4, 2018
#plasticban A smiling fisherwoman in Mumbai, pre-ban. Plastic plays a key role in the fish trade, why try to decimate a person's source of income by banning a people's material. #plasticfree pic.twitter.com/97PTlRoIpe— Vishal Vasudeo (@VasudeoVishal) April 4, 2018