The Panchayat department has stepped up enforcement of the ban on single-use plastic items in the district by intensifying inspections in shops and establishments.
Though the ban had kicked in on July 1, the local bodies had been focussing largely on awareness campaigns till now. But that is set to change with a shift to enforcement.
A flash inspection conducted jointly by the panchayat department and health authorities earlier this week was probably a sign of such a shift. During the drive, 196kg of banned plastic items were seized, and ₹61,500 was slapped as a penalty.
“Panchayat secretaries have been asked to conduct widespread inspections in shops and establishments in their limits to enforce the ban. Plastic carry bags are a strict no while a more lenient approach is adopted in the case of plastic wrappings for goods on sale. Though the ban order calls for steep fine in the range of ₹10,000 and ₹25,000, only a nominal fine in the range of ₹1000 and ₹2,000 is being collected as we don’t want to hurt traders, especially small and marginal traders,” said K.K. Joy, Deputy Director of Panchayat, Ernakulam.
Merchants have been asked to dispose of plastic through Haritha Karma Sena within their limits. They charge a fee of ₹100 for collecting plastic from traders and ₹50 from households.
K.A. Nadirsha, a district committee member of the Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, said that while the trading community is willing to cooperate with the plastic ban, there is no clarification yet on what remains banned and what is permissible.
“While there has been a verbal agreement with authorities at a recent meeting to completely avoid plastic carry bags and to be more lenient with the rest, the Corporation officials hardly make that difference during inspections. Also, there seems no alternative to plastic carry bags yet,” said Mr. Nadirsha.
While authorities cite cloth and paper bags as potential alternatives, the trading community seems far from convinced. “Availability and cost are issues in the case of cloth bags. They cost about ₹8-₹10, which customers are unlikely to pay that much,” said Mr. Nadirsha.