A wholehearted battle against plastic in Kozhikode

Kozhikode, Kerala, 12/01/2020: Joseph (left) selling bags made of plastic and non woven material at the vegetable market in Palayam, Kozhikode.by K_Ragesh

Kozhikode, Kerala, 12/01/2020: Joseph (left) selling bags made of plastic and non woven material at the vegetable market in Palayam, Kozhikode.by K_Ragesh   | Photo Credit: K_RAGESH

Influx of carry bags under the cover of compostable plastic a spoiler

A month after the ban on single-use plastic came into effect, people in Kozhikode seem to have accepted the change, more voluntarily than out of compulsion. At the same time, an influx of carry bags under the cover of compostable plastic is threatening to sabotage the very purpose of the ban in the absence of proper implementation.

The thin polythene and poly propylene (non-woven) bags have almost disappeared from even roadside shops and customers are not making a fuss about being charged extra for cloth bags. Better yet, they are learning to carry shopping bags with them.

“We have shifted completely to cloth bags. Our customers are cooperating very well”, said Sajith.K, marketing head of a network of super markets in the city. Being the district secretary of the Supermarket Welfare Association of Kerala, he said the association was making every effort to comply with the ban.

Several shops have cropped up in the heart of the city selling shopping bags made of cloth, jute and even thicker plastic. Paper bags in various sizes are available in even retail shops. Vegetable stores have started using paper cones like in the old times.

On vigil

The implementing agencies, including the Kozhikode Corporation and the district administration, are on high vigil against the use of single-use plastic. More than 500 kilograms of carry bags, mostly made of polypropylene (non-woven) and disposable utensils were seized in the inspections carried out in shops in the heart of the city over the past one month. The Sub Collector led an inspection that resulted in the confiscation of more than 18,000 kilograms of ‘biodegradable plastic’.

Alternate plastic products claimed to be ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ getting circulated widely is a major challenge for the implementing agencies. The guidelines issued by the State government at an earlier stage of the ban had permitted the use of compostable plastic carry bags provided they carried details of the manufacturing company including ISO 17088 certification, Pollution Control Board certification as well as QR code. But with several ‘duplicates’ getting circulated under its cover, the ban was recently extended to all types of carry bags including compostable plastic which has made the task much easier for officers.

“It is not practical to test if a product is really compostable during every inspection,” said C.K. Valsan, Health Inspector at the Kozhikode Corporation, who is in charge of the ban implementation.

The hefty fines levied, if violations are detected, could be a major factor behind the sudden change of stakeholders in the city. The fines for violations are ₹10,000 for the first time, ₹25,000 for second time and ₹50,000 for the third time.

While cloth and paper bags are available in plenty, the non-availability of substitutes to polythene pouches used to pack gravy and other liquids in restaurants is an issue.

With the steep rise in demand for cloth bags, the Kozhikode Corporation Kudumbashree has started several new manufacturing units and have brought the existing ones under one umbrella. “We now have 150 units, two each for every ward. They have been branded as Fresh bags and the sale is centralised,” said Prakashan T.K., Kudumbashree Project Officer in the Corporation.

Besides the bags, the Corporation is also taking steps to eliminate the use of disposable utensils. The unit that rents out steel plates and glasses was launched a few months ago. Around 10,000 ceramic plates are also being purchased now to cater for the wedding market.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 4:30:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/a-wholehearted-battle-against-plastic-in-kozhikode/article30836709.ece

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