A spike in the use of non-woven bags made of polypropylene fabric and sold under the tag of ‘cloth bags’ in Ernakulam seems to have hit efforts to shift to eco-friendly carrybags following the ban on single-use plastic products.
Several shops in the district continue to sell non-woven bags as cloth bags despite the ban. The situation has forced the Government to conduct a campaign to drive home the message that non-woven bags cannot be used as an alternative to plastic bags.
According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules - 2016, polypropylene figures under the category of plastic. An order issued by the Environment Department dated December 27, 2019 pointed out that a fine of ₹10,000 would be charged for use of polypropylene bags for the first time followed by penalty of ₹25,000 and ₹50,000 for subsequent uses of the banned item.
“Many shop owners and consumers in the district were found using non-woven bags as a replacement for single-use plastic. Bags made of polypropylene fibre cannot be recycled and are harmful to the environment,” said Sujith Karun, district co-ordinator, Haritha Keralam Misison.
Representatives of the mission said there was a lack of awareness among users about non-woven bags made of polypropylene fabric. It is made using spun and bond polypropylene fibre, and it is soft and air-permeable. Non-woven bags are made of non-biodegradable plastic. They are prepared on a machine by spreading rolls of plastic.
Non-woven bags became popular after manufacturers made thousands of such bags after the Government announced the ban on single-use plastic from January 1. In fact, the manufacturers were cashing in on the increasing demand for cloth bags following the ban.
Traders also stocked non-woven bags under the impression that they came under the category of cloth bags. Shop owners had no option but to sell them to consumers who asked for carrybags. “They are also cheaper than original cloth bags which are sold in the range of ₹6 and upwards. A non-woven bag made of polypropylene is priced less than ₹1,” said officials of the Environment Department.
The ban on single-use plastic has also witnessed a spurt in sale and use of compostable bags. According to officials of the Haritha Keralam Mission, most bags have failed to live up to the claim of being an ‘eco-friendly’ alternative to plastic bags. Bioplastic/compostable carry bags are also banned in accordance with rules.