Traders, campaigners welcome ban on plastic bags in Delhi

January 16th, 2009 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) Traders and green campaigners have welcomed the imposition of a ban on the use, sale and storage of plastic bags by the Delhi government, with many calling it a long needed move.”The ban was long overdue. Earlier the government sought to limit the ban - saying plastic bags with thickness of more than 40 microns and those that are in vegetable dye or plain white colour would be allowed. This blanket ban was necessary,” said Kushal Yadav, coordinator and campaigner, Centre for Science and Environment.

The notification from the environment, forest and wildlife department of the Delhi government is yet to be circulated, but the ban in keeping with a August 2008 high court order has been in effect since Jan 9.

The notification clearly states that the use, sale and storage of all plastic bags shall be forbidden in the following places:

- Five star and four star hotels;
- Hospitals with 100 or more beds (except for the use for bio-medical wastes);
- Restaurants and eateries having seating capacity of more than 50 seats;
- Liquor vends;
- Shops in main markets and local shopping centres
- All fruit and vegetable outlets of Mother Dairy;
- All retail and wholesale outlets of branded chain of outlets selling consumer
products, including fruits and vegetables;
- Shopping malls.

In other places only the use of biodegradable plastic bags will be allowed.

To enforce the ban, “the department is mulling over various strategies. One option could be launching an awareness drive and then start slapping penalties on offenders,” said an official of the environment, forest and wildlife department.

Although traders have welcomed the move, saying that they too understand environmental constraints, many feel that the alternatives are not provided for in the notification.

“We are for the ban on plastics - we too know how plastics cause harm to environment, choking sewage and ending up as food for stray animals,” said Ashok Randhawa, president of the Sarojini Nagar Traders Association.

“Small shopkeepers choose plastic bags only because it works out cheap,” said Randhawa.

While a plastic bag that can hold weight of up to five kg costs Re.1, a paper bag of the same size would cost Rs.5-7.

“The government is not providing any solutions to us. A trader will not spend up to Rs.10 extra from his pocket to supply bags to a consumer who shops for just Rs.200. For big malls and branded stores it’s easy, they can provide sturdy paper bags when consumers shop for over Rs.2,000,” said Gopal, who runs a shoe shop in Sarojini Nagar.

“The shopkeeper will not spend out of his pocket to provide expensive recycled or paper bags - the consumer will be affected more,” said Randhawa.

The shopkeepers also observed that past efforts to enforce such bans had failed.

“Bans are flouted but no fines are imposed, nobody is penalised. This ban sounds good but can it be achieved?” questioned Randhawa.

“While the ban is a good decision, the monitoring and implementation process is very weak here and any perceivable difference would be unlikely,” Yadav added.

The notification is under a law in which the maximum penalty for using a banned plastic bag is a a fine of Rs.100,000 or a five-year prison term.

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