GHMC had brought in the ban on selling, storage and use of plastic bags below 50 microns last August.

Status check Hyderabads ban on plastic bags below 50 microns is only on paperFile Photo
news Civic Issues Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 15:12

Like every other day, I went to the kirana store at Begumpet in Hyderabad to get groceries. After paying my bill, the storeowner packed all the items in a thin plastic bag. What’s the problem, you ask?  

The thin plastic that was handed to me was below 50 microns and is banned by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).

“We are not aware of this ban,” dismissively says, Raziya, the kirana shop owner.

In August last year, the GHMC brought in the Public Waste Management Rules, 2016 as per which the selling, storage and use of plastic bags below 50 microns was banned. The rules were clear - any establishment using or selling such sachets or pouches, will be fined of Rs 10,000. Caught a second time, the penalty increased to Rs 25,000 and while the offence repeated for the third time will lead to the closure of the establishment and confiscation of the stocked   

Explaining the rationale for the ban, Dr Ganesh Babu, chief medical and sanitation officer of GHMC, who is also responsible for implementing the notification, says, “Plastic bags more than 50 microns strength can be recycled, while thinner bags pose a threat to environment due to its non-disposability.”

However, several vendors in Hyderabad claim to be unaware of the rule and continue to provide plastic covers that are less than 50 microns to their customers.

“The thicker ones are costly,” observes Yamini, a vegetable shop owner, “We buy a pack of 80-100 plastic covers for Rs 20-30. But the better-quality bags (above 50 microns’ thickness) cost double, with a pack of 150 plastic covers costing Rs 100-150.”

Official data from GHMC states that Hyderabad generates 1500 metric tonnes of waste every day.

Srinivas Reddy, an executive engineer of Solid Waste Management Department told TNM that the plastic ban is not practical as long as the price of alternatives remains high.

“The decomposable plastic bags are 50% costlier than the usual plastic bags. That is one of the reason why people are still using the thinner plastic bags. The price of plastic covers above 50 microns will drop when more people use it. Plastic is harmful for the environment and the government should ban it totally. But before that, an affordable alternative should be provided like cloth bags, paper bags etc,” reasons Srinivas.

Meanwhile, GHMC officials claims that several major establishments have been following the rules but implementation remains a challenge with small vendors. They estimate that about 30% of small and large establishments have implemented the ban, and use plastic bags above 50 microns’ thickness.

Ganesh Babu says, “We have been conducting raids and we fine one or two establishments in the city every day. We are yet to bring awareness about the ban and educate people on the harmful effects of the plastic bags in the environment.”

However, Babu argues that although plastic bags above 50 microns’ thickness are more expensive, shop owners charge a fee for these covers. This in the long run will bring down the overall usage of plastic bags.

But vendors complaining that a ban on plastic bags will affect their profit margins and demand that the government provide plastic covers for a cheaper rate.

“We provide plastic bags to customer to carry their items they have purchased. Few years ago, when we stopped giving plastic bags, several customers stopped buying products from my shop. If the government want us to use thicker plastic bags, they should provide it at a low cost, so that we can afford it,” says Raziya.

 

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