Maharashtra plastics ban comes as a shocker to small vendors, consumers

The Maharashtra government’s decision to force a ban on most disposable common use items made up of plastic and thermocol, such as carry bags, cutlery, plates and containers, wrap or store products and plastic pouches has come as a shock to most small traders and consumers.

The government also banned plastic bags used to store liquid, non-woven plastic containers used for takeaway food itemsm  containers for soft drinks, mineral water etc with a carrying capacity below 500 ml.
From 24 June, anyone found using plastic products, including single-use disposable items is liable to face a penalty ranging from Rs5,000 to Rs25,000, with a three-month jail term for non-compliance with the regulation.
BMC's deputy municipal commissioner Nidhi Choudhari said in a tweet: “Fine for 1st offence Rs5,000. Fine for 2nd Offence Rs10,000. Fine for subsequent offences Rs25,000 and 3 months imprisonment. For non-compliance with provisions of Maharashtra Non-biodegradable Garbage Control Act 2006 offence can be registered in COURT.”
The Maharashtra government banned the manufacture, use, sale, transport, distribution, wholesale and retail sale and storage, import of plastic bags with or without a handle, and disposable products like glasses, pouches, plates, straws, containers and cutlery made from plastic and thermocol.
Plastic straws, non-woven polypropene bags, pouches and other plastic used to store, package and transfer food items will also no longer be permitted in the state. Besides, it has banned the use of plastic and thermocol for decoration purposes, as well.
The government enforced the ban with immediate effect, in view of the environmental consequences and harm caused to wild animals from swallowing or getting entangled in plastic.
The government, however, failed to give a viable alternative to the plastic carry bags that were widely in use.
Authorities have cited containers, plates, cups and trays made of betelleaf, bamboo and wood. These are food grade with no chemicals and binding agents, and can be decomposed into the soil within eight weeks as alternatives. Also, plates and bowls made of dried leaves were used in traditional ceremonies before plastic use and dispose crockery came into vogue.
Edible cutlery made of foodgrains are seen as an interesting option.
Cloth, silk, jute, canvas, muslin and wicker bags that can handle up to 3-5kg weight are also seen as environmentally superior options.
The fact, however, is that these are not readily availabe and are not universally applicable to every use.
Meanwhile the corporation has deployed teams consisting of 250 inspectors to keep a vigil on shops, malls, shopkeepers, street vendors, hotels, restaurants and citizens.
Plastic products excluded from the ban include:
  • Plastic used for packaging medicines and drugs;
  • Food grade virgin plastic used for packaging milk;
  • Compostable packaging bags used for horticulture and agriculture purposes:
  • Plastic bags used for exporting goods;
  • Plastic used at the manufacturing stage; and
  • Plastic used for handling of solid waste.
Choudhari clarified the items covered and exempt from the ban in a series of tweets:
  • “Is there a ban on plastic packaging for medical purpose? NO.
  • "Is there a ban on rain coat/tarpaulin sheets/pens/Plastic wrapper of biscuits, chips etc? NO.
  • "Is there a ban on plastic / thermocol packaging of products at manufacturing stage? NO,”
Another tweet said:
  • “Is there a ban on high quality carry bags issued erstwhile by malls/shops? YES.
  • "Is there a ban on plastic / thermocol decorative items? YES.
  • "Is there a ban on disposable cutlery, plates, bowls, cups etc? YES.
  • "Is there a ban on Non Woven polypropylene bags? YES.”