Shopkeepers unaware of plastic ban

Those selling plastic cups, plates and covers unsure what to do after January 1

Published - December 26, 2016 01:11 am IST - NEW DELHI:

With just a week to go till the ban on disposable plastic comes into force, most shopkeepers and street vendors in Delhi were not only unprepared but unaware of the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order.

On December 2, while hearing a case filed by the Sukhdev Vihar Residents’ Welfare Association, the Tribunal ruled that the use of disposable plastic glasses would be prohibited at hotels, restaurants as well as public and private events.

“The National Capital Territory of Delhi shall take appropriate steps against storage, sale and use of such plastic material at the above mentioned places and it shall stand prohibited with effect from January 1, 2017,” ruled the NGT.

Despite the order coming several weeks ago, there is still no clarity on its implementation, with those affected remaining uncertain about the implications. Shopkeepers who sell disposable glasses, plates and other materials as well as businesses that use the same were unsure of what to do on January 1.

‘Target factories’

The owner of a stationery shop in Meherchand Market that sells plastic glasses, plates and other materials for parties said he wasn’t aware of the ban as of Sunday.

“Instead of targeting us, the authorities should stop the factories that make these items. We have already started keeping cloth bags instead of plastic ones, but we haven’t been able to fully stop using plastic as customers ask for it,” said the owner, requesting anonymity. Others were more willing to do their part, but were not aware of the details of the NGT order.

Paper and cloth bags

Varjesh Aggarwal, one of the owners of Bengali Pastry Shop in Bengali Market, said that he had heard of the NGT’s decision and did not have any intention of flouting the rules.

“We will follow the rules as and when the government makes it clear. We used brown paper bags for years, before switching to biodegradable plastic ones,” said Mr. Aggarwal, adding that the cost of cloth or paper bags remains higher than plastic ones. For instance, cloth bags can be Rs.15 per piece, while plastic ones cost around Rs.3-4 per piece, he said.

For small businesses and vendors, including street food vendors, the cost could play a big role. This isn’t the first time that Delhi has tried to rid itself of plastic.

In January 2009, the Delhi government had banned the use of plastic bags at hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, main markets, milk and vegetable shops of Mother Dairy and liquor vends. That ban was effective in the beginning, but many shopkeepers have gone back to plastic now.

Manoj Misra, an environmentalist and the convenor of the Yamuna Jiya Abhiyan, said that the proper implementation of the NGT order was vital.

“These plastic materials end up clogging drains and some make their way into the Yamuna. There are several studies that prove how dangerous this is. The order of the NGT was much needed, but its implementation will be key,” said Mr. Misra.

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