Bengaluru’s war with plastic has begun
Bengaluru’s new commissioner promises strict enforcement of the ban on plastic bags to reduce the strain on a city that generates an estimated 4,000 tonnes of garbage daily
Bengaluru: Every day, sales staff at thousands of retail outlets in Bengaluru, a city of 10 million, hand out plastic shopping bags that end up on streets and landfills, along with an estimated 400 tonnes of other plastic waste.
Not anymore, if N. Manjunatha Prasad, the new commissioner Karnataka government has chosen to oversee India’s fastest growing city, has his way.
Prasad said on Monday that retailers handing out plastic bags in the city will now face a fine of up to Rs.1,000.
Karnataka had already banned all kinds of things—bags, sheets, covers and so on—made out of plastic and some other polymers since March.
The commissioner says he will strictly enforce this ban in Bengaluru to reduce the strain on a city that generates an estimated 4,000 tonnes of garbage daily.
Shoppers can take their own bags with them or try using cloth bags that are costly yet environment-friendly, says Prasad, formerly agriculture secretary in the Karnataka government.
“We have already collected more than Rs. 10 lakh as fines since March. In a week’s time, the enforcement will be made rigorous. Shop owners giving carry bags and retailers and wholesalers who will be storing plastic bags will be fined Rs. 500 first. If they are found repeating their mistakes, they will be fined Rs. 1,000. We have given notices to several plastic manufacturers to shut shop; if they are not willing they will be fined Rs. 10 lakh,” said Prasad.
Not all are happy. Among them are some 25,000 people who eke out a living at 10,000 small and large scale plastic manufacturing units in Bengaluru’s northern suburbs.
“We were having a business of Rs. 10 lakh per month. Almost 80% of it has been lost since March. I think the new commissioner will kill the rest 20% too. I don’t know how we are going to pay our employee salaries and finance our debts,” says V. Shakti, store manager at Shabari Plastics.
The store is located in a northern industrial suburb called Peenya, where most of the plastic manufacturers are located.
Ashwanth Narayan Rao, secretary of the Peenya Plastic Manufacturers Association, says the 140 registered members of his association will continue producing plastic products .
“Since the government has not made wide arrangement towards an alternative, we expect the business would remain unhurt in some way. We are still making Rs. 3 crore worth plastic products; out of it, 40% are bags,”he said.
“(Meanwhile) We are also pursuing a case in NGT (National Green Tribunal) against the ban. The verdict is slated for 15 July, we are expecting a favourable verdict,” he said.
Others aren’t so hopeful. Pranesh Rao, who runs Sri Vigneshwara Plastic Industries in the area, has stopped making plastic bags.
“I used to manufacture plastic bags worth Rs. 25-30 lakh per month. I fired 22 workers after the ban and switched to (manufacturing) surgical equipments. I was sure the next stage after the ban will be some sort of harassment. So I thought why take chances,” asks Rao.
Cities like Delhi and Mumbai have banned plastic bags in the past, realising the long-term environmental damage they could cause, but have seen limited success, experts said.
“Cities like Mumbai and Delhi have banned plastic since 2009 but it was poorly enforced. Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkand are the states that have completely banned plastic so far. Assam is in the process of banning. You will still see plastic in all these places,” said Jayaprakash Alwa, an environmental expert and member of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).