Single-use plastics back in use

Traders blame it on customers not bringing their own bags

July 31, 2021 12:51 am | Updated 12:54 am IST - CHENNAI

Ban only on paper: Plastic carry bags are back among retail traders and hawkers in Chennai.

Ban only on paper: Plastic carry bags are back among retail traders and hawkers in Chennai.

Despite a ban being in force, single use plastics, particularly polythene carry bags, are back in use widely in the city again.

The State government banned the use of single-use plastics in 2019. While the enforcement was stringent initially, the monitoring seemed to have waned particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to their re-emergence. The banned plastics are commonly spotted mostly in small stores, eateries and among hawkers selling vegetables.

G. Meena, who sells vegetables on Eldams Road, said they were forced to have carry bags as a majority of the customers do not bring bags. “It is relatively better how. A lot of people do bring bags. However, many still do not. We will be happy if everyone brings their own bags as we do not have to spend on carry bags,” she said.

A grocer in Teynampet said that while many supermarkets and big outlets had switched to cloth bags, those running small shops like him could not make that switch completely. “In big outlets, customers are charged ₹10 or ₹20 for a bag. Those who come to our shops do not want to pay extra for a bag,” he said.

Many eateries have switched to using plastics for packaging.

N. Prakash, a delivery partner with one of the major online food delivery platforms, said that while they had switched to paper bags soon after the ban, plastics had gradually returned.

“A lot of restaurants are avoiding plastics. However, many have started using plastic boxes and carry bags as they find them to be easier for packing food,” he said.

‘Brought from outside’

S. Rakkappan, president, Tamil Nadu Plastic Manufacturers’ Association (TAPMA), said that although the usage of plastics had gradually resumed, the manufacturing units remained severely affected. “As far as I know, more than 75% to 80% of MSME units have shut shop. Whatever plastics we see in Tamil Nadu are predominantly coming from places like Puducherry and Daman and Diu,” he said.

He alleged that the support the previous government promised to provide to MSME units for producing alternatives to plastic never materialised. “I personally tried to help 10 to 15 units. It did not help. Many people who were running and working in small units are struggling now,” he said.

An official from the Greater Chennai Corporation said that periodic checks were being conducted although the focus may have reduced after the outbreak of COVID-19.

The official said that monitoring would be intensified.

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