Mumbai Plastic Ban: City free of plastic, but suburbs free to use it?

Mumbai: While citizens of the island city shudder at the thought of using plastic outside their homes, people and shopkeepers in Mumbai’s suburbs openly strut around with plastic bags and other banned materials. Neither are there officials to keep a check, nor does the Plastic Ban squad visit the shops.

Just as there are daily visits of the plastic inspectors in the malls and other outlets of the island city, suburban Mumbaikars have said they have never seen an inspector even while they were carrying plastic bags on a public road.

“Since almost a week, I am getting fish from the municipal market in Borivli. The fish is neatly wrapped in the paper but then the fisherwoman puts it in a polypropylene (PP) bag and openly hands it over to me,” said Rajni Engineer, a home-maker from Borivli, adding, “When I asked her why the plastic bag, she says idhar koi nahin dekhne aata (no one comes to check here).”

It is the same scene at Malad. Natraj Market boasts of plastic bags whenever one buys anything from a road stall. One such stall owner said they have been using these bags since the day of the ban and weren’t perturbed by the move. “We are getting these (PP) bags at much cheaper rate than before. So we might as well risk using it. We will see when the inspectors catch hold of us. As of now, fortunately, no inspector has come yet.”

Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam’s pet project, the infamous plastic ban has been a nightmare for the civic bodies and government authorities. The state government has received criticism from many corners of the state alleging it hasn’t been able to implement the ban properly.

A reputed sweet and farsan shop in Kandivali still displays the banned plastic containers with sweets in it. On enquiring, he said he has to sell the ‘maal’ which he has already bought and then think about the ban.  “If the inspector comes, t is better to pay him the penalty of Rs 5,000 rather than not using the products which I already have in my godown,” he said.

The state government enforced the ban after issuing the Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products (manufacture, usage, sale, transport, handling, and storage) notification in March this year. As per the notification, violators will be fined Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 for the first and second-time offense. A third-time offender will have to shell out Rs 25,000 and may also face imprisonment for a period of three months. The government had given the manufacturers, distributors, and consumers a period of three months to dispose their existing stock and come up with alternatives to plastic usage. But as days went by, they started retracting one aspect after the other of the ban. Now, retailers, manufacturers, e-commerce and grocery shop owners, among others are all allowed to use plastic with some or the other conditions.

Plastic packaging accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste globally, and much of it is thrown away within just a few minutes of its first use, according to the United Nations.

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