However, one problem is that many low-cost substitutes currently on offer also contain traces of non-biodegradable plastic

These Bengaluru neighbourhoods are taking to the plastic ban with enthusiasm
news Plastic ban Saturday, April 30, 2016 - 20:26

It has been a little over a month since the State Government called for a ban on March 11 on everyday plastic products. While the results across the city have been very mixed, some neighbourhoods have shown an enthusiastic response to the new ban.

“While a few vendors still use plastic bags, most have stopped using them. Many vendors in my area claim that the ban has helped them save a lot of money as customers come to the shops with their own bags,” says Arathi, a member of HaSiRu Mithra, a citizen initiative of Ward 174 and 190 in HSR Layout.  The vendors in these wards are also moving towards the usage of paper bags over plastic bags. “We have also suggested the usage of oil-resistant paper covers in some shops that deal with oily food items,” says Arathi.

However, shopkeepers in Whitefield weren’t as taken by the ban as their compatriots from HSR layout. “The shopkeepers initially found it very tough to keep up with the ban without plastic bags. This is when we came up with the ‘rent-a-bag’ initiative under which 2000 jute bags were distributed,” says Vikas Chandra, a volunteer with Whitefield Rising, a charitable trust working for the betterment of the Whitefield area.

‘Rent-a-bag’ started after the ban came into place to help shopkeepers deal with the lack of plastic bags, he says. The bags were distributed among shopkeepers, who let the customers rent it and return it on their next visit.   

Organisations like HaSiRu Mithra and Whitefield Rising have been working to garner support against plastic usage. Earlier in January, HaSiRu Mithra, in association with the BBMP, carried out an Anti-Plastic Movement spanning over fifteen days to build awareness among shopkeepers through posters.

Likewise, after the ban came into effect, the members of the initiative carried out an implementation drive, seizing plastic items that were banned by the government. Following this, a fine drive was initiated by the organization, with the support of BBMP officials, who fined the violators anywhere between Rs 1000 and Rs 10000.

Whitefield Rising has also carried out drives on similar lines. “We seized about 45 kg of plastic in a ward yesterday,” said Vikas Chandra.

Apart from jute bags, shopkeepers and vendors across the city have increasingly taken to using cloth bags and other alternatives like paper cups instead of plastic, attempting to keep Bengaluru plastic-free. However, one of the problems being faced is that many of these substitutes also contain traces of non-biodegradable plastic, and hence fall under the ban by the government.

Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner of Solid Waste Management at the BBMP told The Hindu that the non-woven cloth bags essentially contain polypropylene, which is high in plastic. 

Sharada Madugala, a coordinator from the Yelahanka ward of Bangalore Eco Connect agrees with the JC. “Many shopkeepers use polypropylene unaware of its existence in the cloth bags. This is because they are duped into doing so by manufacturers, who sell these bags at very low costs,” she says. 

Meanwhile, according to The Hindu, the BBMP has also been strongly advocating the use of steel and glass cups instead of paper cups and plates at gatherings. Similarly, HaSiRu Mithra is also educating people against using single use items like disposable plates and cups. “These disposable cups, although made of paper, have a coating of wax so as to not absorb liquids. This wax, needless to say, is not meant for human consumption and poses a huge health hazard,” says Arathi.

The organization is planning to set up a rental service of sorts, to rent out steel plates, cups and other cutlery, to promote a culture counter to single-use commodities. “It may be on the pricier side, but in the bigger picture of public health and environmental concerns, it is a meager cost,” says Arathi. 

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