Pandemic overshadows plastic ban, civic body vows enforcement renewal 

Small operators such as street vendors are giving out plastic bags in Bengaluru.

Small operators such as street vendors are giving out plastic bags in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: File Photo


Chandana S., a resident of south Bengaluru, was buying groceries recently when she noticed thin plastic bags being given away at will by shopkeepers. She questioned one of them about the plastic ban in place. “The shopkeeper said if he does not give away bags, he will lose customers. Only a few people carry their own bags,” she said. 

With COVID-19 bringing sweeping changes to the way we live, overshadowing everything else since 2020, plastic - including the banned kind - has surely and visibly made a comeback. Citizens from various parts of the city have highlighted the need to bring back enforcement, which, they say, had borne considerable yields before the pandemic struck. 

For instance, Parveen Sultana, a resident of Yelahanka, recalled how before the pandemic, the local butcher would not even pack meat in plastic packs “I remember having to carry my own as they would pack it in a paper bag,” she said. 

New additions 

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), in a public notice on March 7, said as per Rule 4 (2) of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 (as amended), the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of single use plastics (SUPs) such as ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, polystyrene for decoration, plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, wrapping and packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards and cigarette packets, and plastic or PVC banners less than 100 microns would be prohibited from July 1.  

Srinivasulu, member secretary, KSPCB, told The Hindu that the 2016 notification on the ban on single-use plastics was for the State, while last year, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021. The rules prohibit “identified single-use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.”  

A person carrying polythene bags in Bengaluru.

A person carrying polythene bags in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: File Photo

“Some points which were not covered under the State rules and were additional in the Government of India notification have been conveyed through the public notice. COVID-19 did have an adverse impact on the ban implementation. Now the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has started enforcement again. We are also strengthening recycling unit registrations and starting awareness programmes on reducing SUPs very soon,” he said. 

He also said the KSPCB has submitted an action plan to the Union Government. “We have also proposed to the government to convene a meeting with all stakeholders on biodegradable plastics,” he added. 

‘Enforcement now in full steam’ 

BBMP officials, while admitting that the single-use plastic ban enforcement had taken a backseat due to the pandemic, said surprise inspections of shops and manufacturing units had resumed in full steam. 

Speaking to The Hindu, Joint Commissioner of Solid Waste Management Sarfaraz Khan, who had recently instructed all zonal officers to enforce a complete ban within BBMP limits, said crackdowns had begun. “Industry bodies have urged us to not be harsh as they are still reeling under the impact of the pandemic. We also wanted clarity on what is banned and what is not. Due to the pandemic, everyone (in the BBMP) was on COVID-19 duty and businesses were also down. We are strictly enforcing the ban now,” he said.

Smaller vendors

As before, smaller vendors are proving to be a problem, he added. “The big ones have changed for good and are sticking to paper and fabric bags. But small operators such as street vendors are giving out plastic bags, which was the problem before too,” he added. Mr. Khan also said there is no such thing as biodegradable plastic or approvals for these as of now. 

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2022 2:45:22 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/pandemic-overshadows-plastic-ban-civic-body-vows-enforcement-renewal/article65238243.ece