The plastic ban may have reduced the production of plastic products within the State, but the flow of plastics in its various avatars continues in the form of packages around processed food.
On Friday, scores of workers and owners of plastics units, under the banner of the Karnataka State Plastic Association, held a protest demanding withdrawal of the ban which they claim is favouring large multi-national corporations.
“The ban, implemented in March 2016, has resulted in over 1,000 units being closed across the State and a loss of more than ₹350 crore to the industry,” said V. Vijaya Kumar, president of the Association. “However, they are allowing chips packets, shampoo sachets, biscuit packets and PET bottles, which contribute 90% of the plastic waste in the city. How is this fair,” he asked at the protest in Freedom Park.
Local shops, bakeries, hotels and others had been exempted under the original ban. However, this was reversed in April this year.
“All sectors who do not procure the packing plastic products from manufactures but from local retail outlets are prohibited from using plastic bags. This has resulted in retail shops being shut since August 20, and lakhs of workers are affected,” says the Association, which has demanded a relaxation in the ban, to allow carry bags of 50 microns and above, plastic covers used in goods delivery, and plastic cutlery for the hotel sector.
For officials and waste recyclers, the ban is already showing results in waste management.
“We used to get between 1.5 tonnes and 2 tonnes in our Dry Waste Collection Centres. Now, we get less than 100 kg...the ban works as long as enforcement is there,” says Nalini Shekar from Hasiru Dala, a waste-pickers’ non-profit organisation that runs 3,333 Dry Waste Collection Centres in the city.
However, volumes of plastic packets for chips, juices, carbonated drinks and other grocery items — called integrated plastic packaging — continue to come in unabated.
“Last month, we sent over 120 tonnes of multi-layer packaging to cement factories for incineration. There is an EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility, which states that vendors for the packaging have to pay for the recycling), but local bodies should do much more to implement it... But, in the long run, we should invest in technologies for sustainable packaging,” she says.
Karnataka State Pollution Control Board Chairperson Lakshman, who is also in the committee to steer the implementation of the ban, said there was no question about rethinking the ban. On continuing plastics in integrated packaging material, he said, “Unlike retail plastics, it is the responsibility of the vendors of plastic packages to ensure it is recycled. This has to be complied with, and we will need time for its implementation,” he said.