The green tip

The “No to plastic” campaign is gradually catching up in the city

Updated - February 24, 2012 03:33 pm IST

Published - February 24, 2012 03:31 pm IST

CONSCIOUS EFFORT: To turn environment friendly. Photo: M. Moorthy

CONSCIOUS EFFORT: To turn environment friendly. Photo: M. Moorthy

Over the last week, walls sporting artistic coats of paint, traffic islands with spruced up green tufts, and white boards exhorting denizens by way of striking verses and catchphrases to keep the city ‘clean and green' have all mushroomed under the compass of the city beautification project. The ‘say no to plastic' campaign has long been a part of the initiative.

Yet, after many clean-up campaigns and rallies organized by the city corporation in collaboration with students and voluntary organizations, plastic bags continue to be the product of choice in most of the city's commercial establishments, particularly in department stores. Senior officials of various Government Departments here have repeatedly called for use of bags made of paper, jute and cloth while stepping up a drive to confiscate non-biodegradable plastic below 40 microns of thickness.

“Though many stores claim to use biodegradable bags, the important question is how many of them find themselves back into the recycling process,” notes a government official. “If left lying around in open spaces, they can cause pollution too,” he adds.

“What is the use of banning plastic bags in stores when it is offered for a price?” asks Durga, an IT graduate. “Department stores charge anywhere between Rs. 2-5 per bag. They could consider charging Rs. 5 and providing a cloth or jute bag instead.”

Exploring alternatives

But there are a few enterprises that have sought the road less travelled. The Uzhavar Sandhai, where farmers sell their produce directly to customers, at K.K. Nagar is an illustration of awareness percolating from seller to buyer. Farmers here are aware of the environmental consequences of plastic, which they duly pass on to clients who demand plastic bags. There are no plastic bags in sight here and mornings are bustling with shoppers carrying wire baskets, jute bags and cotton bags. “Earlier some farmers used to give away vegetables in plastic bags. But we stopped supply of plastic bags completely a month ago,” says Socrates, executive officer of the market. “Even morning walkers who drop in to buy a bunch of greens and insist on bags are directed to a vendor with coarse gunny bags.”

“We have been asking customers to bring their own bags,” says Paneer Selvam, a tomato vendor. “If someone turns up without a bag, we ask them to come the next day. But after a month, customers have made it a custom to bring their own bags.”

A few like housewife Indhira Gandhi reuse the plastic bags available at home for shopping. “It is better to reuse available plastic bags than to buy new ones,” she feels. “But as long as bigger shops continue to stock them, there is no end to the menace.”

Even small canteens and roadside shops have switched to paper cups that are a tad more expensive than plastic ones, keeping environment consciousness in mind. Some fruit and sweet stalls pack their wares in bags made of tissue paper.

A flower shop in Mannarpuram has shown its customers that the eco-friendly route is not necessarily an expensive one. Both dried flower arrangements and bunches of fresh flowers are handed over in bags that are fashioned out of newspapers — two sheets of paper folded artfully and held by glue and staplers, with a string for handle. “Our green tip has come in for a lot of appreciation,” says Ejula Mathew, proprietor. “I looked up the internet for ideas and came up with this home-made bag.”

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