HC upholds ban on single-use plastic products

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Thursday upheld a Tamil Nadu government order banning use of throwaway plastic but lamented its poor implementation, saying plastic products were still freely available. Dismissing a batch of PILs from Chennai Non-Wovens Private Limited and 29 others, a bench of justices R Subbiah and Krishnan Ramasamy ordered the state government to stop supplying 'Aavin' brand milk in plastic packets and use bottles or find any other means.

The PILs had sought to quash the June 25, 2018 government order of the state Environment and Forest Department and a consequential letter of December 8, 2018 in so far as it banned non-woven polypropylene carry bags. The PILs had also sought a direction to the government to not interfere with the petitioners' manufacturing, storing, supplying, trading of the products. The ban on single-use plastic in the state came into force on January 1 this year.

The bench in its 90-page order observed that even though the government had banned single-use plastic products to make the environment plastic-free, "we feel that the ban is neither effective nor complete." In spite of the ban, one-time throwaway plastics were freely made available for use, it said, adding the order can, therefore, be construed to remain only on paper. Unless hefty fines were imposed on suppliers or stockists, the ban cannot be effective or complete, the bench said. "We, therefore, direct the government to implement the banning of all multi-layered plastic wrappers and covers, which are meant for one-time use and throwaway, to make the ban effective and meaningful," it said. Referring to the exemption given for supplying milk, it said the government can explore use of bottles or any other means instead of the plastic cover.

The state should promote alternative products such as cloth or jute bags for being used by one and all in the larger interest of protecting the environment from being hampered. Dwelling at length on the harmful effects of plastics on the environment and marine and domestic animals, the court said the state was duty-bound to enforce certain stringent measures to protect the ecology. When discarded in earth, the plastic items had the tendency to destruct and lower the quality of soil in the earth, which is the greatest cause for concern.

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