We find them everywhere – flying in the air, hanging from branches of trees, stuck in corners or racing along with vehicles on roads. Plastic bags of all shapes, sizes and colours are ubiquitous in city.
That this lightweight, flexible, and thin film carry bags litter the city streets besides contributing to carbon emissions is common knowledge. Despite a ban on their use by local municipal authorities, their illicit use by shop-keepers in city is a perennial problem.
But two city grocers, K.V.V.G. Prem Kumar and his brother Murali Krishna, chose to be part of a solution rather than the problem.
The brothers run a grocery store at Foundry Street of Durgapuram and are known to turn down customers who fail to bring their own bag. “We set up the shop 17 years back and right from day one, we were against use of plastic bags knowing the enormous harm they cause. Initially we lost many customers who even warned us of a business downsize if we continued to insist on our stand. But we were adamant even at the cost of losing a section of our customers,” says Mr. Prem Kumar.
“The local municipal wing is intermittently conducting raids in few shops and after a few days, the problem resurfaces. The VMC has now allowed use of bags above 40 microns (thicker bags), while some shops still use bags below 20 microns,” he says.
Properties like their low weight and resistance to degradation that have made these bags commercially successful are also responsible for their proliferation in the environment. It is due to their durability, plastic bags can take centuries to decompose, says Mr. Prem Kumar.
People who buy grocery in bulk from their shop get a big size cloth or jute bags but buyers who seek lose products in a carry bag, return disappointed. “We try to explain to them how plastic bags, when not disposed properly, find their way into the drainage system resulting in choking of drains, creating unhygienic environment and causing water borne diseases. Many people brush it aside but we do our job for our own satisfaction,” he says.
Mr. Prem Kumar also feels strongly about growing materialism, liquor menace and the rapidly disappearing traditional foods. “We have no control over other factors and so we chose to confine our role to whatever little we can do to save the environment,” he says.