Banned plastics available all over Chennai

Tea stalls and small eateries are using plastic cups; civic body is too busy with COVID-19 to enforce ban

Updated - October 05, 2020 07:55 am IST

Published - October 05, 2020 01:14 am IST - CHENNAI

Making a comeback:  On Sunday, plastic bags were found in key areas of Chennai, like T. Nagar.

Making a comeback: On Sunday, plastic bags were found in key areas of Chennai, like T. Nagar.

With the COVID-19 lockdown relaxed, single-use plastic items, banned by the State government, seem to be flooding the markets from neighbouring States. Local bodies have been too busy combating COVID-19 and have had no time to enforce the ban.

From restaurants to markets, banned plastic carry-bags, cups and straws have made a comeback. On January 1, 2019, the government banned single-use plastic items. Since then, the local bodies, especially corporations and municipalities, had conducted searches, seized these items and fined those selling them.

As enforcement was lacking, the products have gradually returned. “Yes, I have started using plastic cups,” said S. Mariappan, a tea vendor on Old Mahabalipuram Road. “When I reopened my shop after the lockdown was relaxed, customers refused to have tea in glasses, worried about COVID-19. So I was forced to switch to plastic cups,” he said. Several other tea stall owners and even those selling juices have embraced plastics. Many hotels, mainly small eateries, are using plastic cups.

On Sunday, plastic bags were found in many parts of Chennai, including in key areas like T. Nagar, Sowcarpet, Pondy Bazar, Saidapet and Koyambedu.

Vegetable vendors said consumers wanted plastic carry-bags. “One of my regular customers, who usually carries a jute bag, has been insisting that I give a plastic bag. Since the market is crowded, he is worried about bringing his own bag. Customers can throw away the plastic bags once they reach home,” said a vegetable vendor on Natesan Street.

A meat stall owner in Saidapet said that after the 2019 ban, people brought their own containers and vessels, but now they wanted chicken/mutton wrapped in plastic bags. “I managed to source the bags from shops in Pondy Bazaar and Sowcarpet,” he said.

Most shop owners using the banned products said that local bodies across the State had plenty of other work because of the pandemic, and there was no one to monitor them.

‘Pandemic is priority’

“The government’s priority is COVID-19 and not plastics,” said a trader on Ranganathan Street, one of the busiest shopping hubs in Chennai.

Asked how such huge quantities of plastic items entered the market, S. Rakkappan, president of the Tamil Nadu Plastic Manufacturers’ Association, said all factories that come under the association had stopped making the banned products. “These plastics that you see around are from the neighbouring States and Puducherry.”

Shopkeepers selling the banned items said they were sourcing them from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and regions near Mumbai.

“There are a few units around Erode that send out these goods on lorries and tempos. With COVID-19, no one has time to monitor these vehicles,” said a trader from Pondy Bazaar. He said it was not just traders, but even individual consumers were buying plastics for their daily use.

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