Plastic bags were banned in the Indian capital of Delhi in 2009. As of this past month, the government has imposed a far more extensive ban, with new rules outlawing plastic wrappers on magazines and greeting cards. The ban covers “all use, sale and manufacture of plastic bags in the city” and “no exceptions will be made,” as an anonymous official said to AFP (via the Telegraph). Plastic bags can also not be used for garbage collecting in the city and the bags cannot be imported, notes The Hindu.
Delhi’s population of 17 million generates 1.2 million pounds of trash, plenty of it plastic, per day. As the anonymous official comments, citing the health hazards to humans and animals:
Plastic is an environmental disaster. These bags clog the city’s drains, they are non-biodegradable. It might take time, but we have to ensure that this ruling is enforced throughout Delhi.
Unfortunately, the 2009 ban turned out to be mostly toothless, with fruit and vegetable vendors, small stores and restaurants offering take-out food still using cheap bags made of thin plastic.
Now those who violate the law could face a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,807) or up to five years in jail, says the BBC. But how to actually carry out the ban remains an issue. The Hindu says that government officials “appeared at a loss on how to implement the stringent provisions.”
The new law has already been challenged. As in the U.S. and Canada, manufacturers of plastic are none too pleased about it. The All India Plastic Industries Association (AIPIA) has filed a lawsuit against the Delhi government and claims that the ban will mean the end of jobs for thousands of people who make plastic bags and sell them. The case is being heard by the Delhi High Court.
Of course the Delhi ban will cause difficulties in the short term. There are few alternatives available; AFP (via the Telegraph) notes that bags from jute are popular but not widely available. Plastic bags can still be used for biomedical waste products and for packaging food (cooking oil, milk, flour) and plastic cups are still allowed.
The Delhi government has said that unspecified “efforts would be made to create awareness about the issue.” One effort ought to involve informing the public about alternatives to plastic bags and incentives to create, make and use them.
But the uproar over the law and the degree of reliance people are expressing about plastic bags make it all the more clear why a ban is needed. Plastic bags are just too convenient and too readily available and, human nature being what it is, people are highly unlikely to stop using them unless they are not there for the taking — something for us all to keep in mind, whether we’re in India or the U.S.
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