S. Anil Radhakrishnan

The switch-over from plastic may not be that easy. Dearth of raw materials like recycled paper can pose problems.

Thiruvananthapuram: With the anti-plastic drive gathering momentum in the State following the ban on plastic materials below 30 microns, eco-friendly products such as cloth and paper bags have emerged as alternatives to the plastic carry-bags.

The decision of shop owners not to provide carry bags below 30 microns and to charge for those above 30 microns have forced shoppers to go for cloth and paper bags.

Many shop owners have already shifted to the old practice of wrapping goods in newspapers. Hoteliers are frantically searching for banana leaves to pack the food.

Boxes made of aluminium foil too are much in demand. The customer has to pay extra for this.

The biggest disadvantage of paper bags is that they cannot be used for carrying meat, fish and wet commodities. “Cloth bags can be provided in the same size and design of plastic carry bags for Rs. 5. It can be used for six months,” says C. Jayakumar of Thanal, an NGO.

Thanal had trained women in making covers and bags from paper, bamboo, waste cloth and jute as part of the Zero Waste Kovalam Project implemented in the beach resort four years ago.

Demand for imparting similar training is pouring in from all over the State to Thanal and Pioneer Paper bag unit based at Vellar near Kovalam. Over 16 units, most of them Kudumbasree, have entered the field as capital required is less.

But, procuring raw materials like recycled and handmade paper is posing a problem for them. Kudumbasree units which do not have VAT registration have to pay eight per cent if recycled and handmade paper is procured from neighbouring States.

A piece of recycled paper (dummy size) which costs Rs. 26 in Thiruvananthapuram costs Rs. 13 in factories in Tamil Nadu. “Tax exemption will make Kudumbasree units viable,” Mr. Jayakumar adds.

Environmentalists say disposable plastics should be strictly targeted since they are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes and lead to a host of health problems.

22 alternatives

As many as 22 alternatives to disposable plastics -- including jute, cloth, paper, areca sheaths, teak leaves, banana fibre, leaves and wax paper -- are being used in the State. The use of alternatives will help revive local economy, Mr. Jayakumar says.