Maharashtra takes steps to end single-use plastic by May 1

Civic bodies across the State told to give incentives to establishments for not using plastic

Published - February 20, 2020 01:23 am IST - Mumbai

Following initial success after the State government banned use of single-use plastic in March 2018, the drive lost momentum.

Following initial success after the State government banned use of single-use plastic in March 2018, the drive lost momentum.

In another step towards curbing use of single-use plastic in the State from May 1, the Environment department and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board have asked municipal corporations across the State to give incentives to establishments, prepare squads similar to those in Mumbai to confiscate plastic, and to hold review meetings every month, officials said.

The Maharashtra government had in March 2018 issued a notification banning manufacture, sale and use of single-use plastic bags. It also banned an array of plastic products including cutlery, straws and containers. The ban imposes a penalty between ₹5,000 and ₹25,000 for those violating the rules.

The government had given people time till June 23 to dispose of their banned items, following which municipal corporations started drives to confiscate banned plastic and the MPCB conducted drives to ensure manufacturing units were shut down. However, after about a year, the drive lost momentum and single-use plastic is now freely available in the market. The ban was the brainchild of Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, and was implemented by the then Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam.

After becoming Environment Minister himself, Mr. Thackeray conducted a review of the ban in January, and spoke to various stakeholders regarding hurdles faced in its implementation. He also held a meeting via video conference on February 5 with municipal commissioners, district collectors and divisional commissioners. He has now asked the civic bodies in the State to submit plans on how they will become single-use plastic free.

Following the meeting, MPCB has also planned several measures that can be undertaken.

E Ravendiran, member secretary of MPCB said, “We want organisations like offices, municipal councils, gram panchayats to come forward and give self-declaration on being plastic free. Their claims will then be verified and we are considering giving them incentives like certificates or prizes. We might even hold competitions for these prizes through the local body. Let us see how many come forward. Local bodies have been asked to submit their action plan. A draft proposal is ready, we will discuss it with the Minister and then declare it.” MPCB is hopeful that organisations will come forward to become single use plastic free.

Besides, MPCB is also encouraging municipal corporations to set up team of inspectors along the lines of BMC’s blue squads for confiscating banned plastic. District collectors are supposed to hold monthly review of the implementation of the ban. A State-wide meeting will be held in March and the department will kick off its awareness campaign. Students will be involved in the drive and various competitions will be held at school, college level to sensitise them.

Anil Diggikar, principal secretary, Environment Department, said, “Corporations can individually decide how to motivate all establishments. The department will do State-wide publicity while the local bodies will be responsible for the execution.”

Officers attributed the slowdown in the implementation of the ban to the two elections in 2019.

The other challenge for the department will be preventing import of single use plastic from other States.

“If you look at the larger impact, single use plastic has reduced by 50-60% in the State. But it is possible that it comes from other States. We are looking at ways to prevent that. By May 1, we hope to put an end to that also,” said an MPCB official.

Meanwhile, environmentalist Afroz Shah said, “Implementation of the notification is fine but there are two stages of plastic — pre-litter and post-litter. Pre-litter means counselling the consumer about avoiding a lifestyle that stresses on largescale plastic consumption, especially multi-layered plastic. It is the responsibility of both producers and consumers to avoid products that use non-recyclable plastic. If citizens can achieve that level of lifestyle changes, it could take care of a large part of the problem. We cannot say at this stage if people can or cannot do this, it depends on factors. Even post-litter, which means when plastic hits the streets, is important.”

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