Plastic ban wreaks havoc in Mumbai, across Maharashtra

Citizens, retailers, and vendors small and large faced extreme hardship on the first day of Maharashtra’s ban on plastic and thermocol.

The state-wide plastic ban by the Devendra Fadanvis government will result in loss of up to Rs15,000 crore and nearly 3 lakh jobs, according to the plastic manufacturing industry. “The ban imposed by Maharashtra from Saturday has hit the industry very hard and the plastic industry is staring at a loss of Rs15,000 crore, leaving nearly 3 lakh people jobless overnight,” Plastic Bags Manufacturers Association of India general secretary Neemit Punamiya told PTI.
Nearly 2,500 members of the association have been left with the no option but to shut shop following the ban, he added and termed the ban as “discriminatory”.
On 23 March, the state announced a ban on manufacture, use, sale, distribution and storage of plastic materials such as one-time-use bags, spoons, plates, PET and PETE bottles and thermocol items. The government had given three months’ time to dispose of the existing stocks, which ended on Saturday.
According to a Times of India report, business was affected as traders downed shutters in some localities, restaurateurs halted home delivery of liquid items, and milk, meat, and fish vendors waited for customers to turn up with containers, while most retailers passed on the cost of paper and cloth bags to customers.
Although Mumbai’s civic corporation had said no punitive action would be taken till Monday, over a dozen restaurants and retail outlets at High Street Phoenix mall in Lower Parel were fined Rs5,000 each, TOI reported. These included a leading fast-food chain, a sweet shop whose attendants wore plastic gloves, a shoe store, a coffee shop and clothiers.
The raids were underway well into the night with 18-20 inspectors entering each shop. While officials said action against the common man will start from Monday, deputy municipal commissioner (special) Nidhi Choudhary said, “We acted against the big outlets from Saturday to send out a strong message that everyone must follow the law or face action.”
In Thane, the civic body seized nearly 2,500kg of plastic and thermocol items. As many as 100 traders, including vegetable vendors and hawkers, were penalised. Till late evening, the team had recovered nearly Rs95,000 in penalty.
The Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation collected nearly Rs1,05,000 as penalty, Kalyan-Dombivli municipal corporation Rs50,000 and Ambernath Rs40,000.
The worst-affected were meat and fish vendors and milk suppliers.
Business fell drastically as scarcely any buyers arrived with vessels, and home delivery in cloth or paper bags proved unviable. Some meat vendors continued to use plastic bags but camouflaged them in newspapers.
According to PTI, industry insiders have said the job losses from the ban will impact the state’s GDP, and also increase banks’ bad loans from the plastic sector. Retailers across the megapolis have said heavy fines for violating the bank will make them financially unviable and force them to turn away many customers, while consumers have complained of inconvenience and wondered whether the ban makes sense.
The civic authorities have declared a fine of Rs 5,000 for the first-time offenders and Rs10,000 for the second-time offenders. Those who violate the ban for the third time will face a fine of Rs25,000, along with three months’ imprisonment.