Plastic bags still rule the roost in street shops

People continue to use plastic bags despite the ban in Tiruchi on Monday.

People continue to use plastic bags despite the ban in Tiruchi on Monday. | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

The nationwide ban on single-use and disposable plastic items, particulalry bags, which took effect on July 1, has not stopped the city’s street vendors from using them due to a shortage of viable alternatives.

Street vendors in the city have seemingly turned a blind eye to the State government’s campaign as well, as plastic bags continue to be in use. The Tamil Nadu government launched a ‘Meendum Manjappai’ initiative in December 2021, to promote reusable cloth carry bags over plastic ones.

“Though we welcome the ban on disposable plastics, because they are a major reason for littering and clogging up of waterways, most of the street shops are unable to afford other packaging materials. It would have been better to consult the affected parties before the rule was announced,” A. Ansardeen, secretary, Tiruchi District Street Vendors Association, told The Hindu.

“A packet of 80 plastic bags costs ₹30; a more biodegradable one, less than 40 microns, works out to be costlier by five to 20 rupees. If vendors were given enough notice to switch over to eco-friendly products, they would be more open to the new directive. Plastic packaging by corporate entities is exempt from the ban, so there is still some confusion among traders about the issue,” he added.

Many vendors say that paper and banana leaves, two of the most commonly suggested alternatives, are pricier than plastic. “Customers do not want to have their goods wrapped in newsprint or leaves — they themselves demand plastic bags when they come shopping,” said Mr. Ansardeen.

Despite the resurgence of plastic bags, authorities have continued with sensitisation initiatives to favour eco-friendly options.

The Tiruchi Corporation held an awareness campaign at the Uzhavar Sandhai (farmers’ market) in Tennur on Sunday by avoiding the use of plastic bags in the 112 shops in the facility from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Shopkeepers were advised against handing out plastic bags even if customers requested for them, while visitors were told to come prepared with cloth totes to store their purchases.

“We have handed out over 10,000 cloth bags since the Meendum Manjappai campaign began, but it is more important to change the mindset of the common man. We should have reusable cloth bags and vessels when we go shopping; when these principles are imparted to the younger generation, there’s a real chance for change,” said activist K. C. Neelamegam of the environment NGO Thanneer.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2022 7:03:18 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/plastic-bags-still-rule-the-roost-in-street-shops/article65599319.ece