Restaurants continue their love affair with plastic

With single use plastics being banned the government, restaurateurs utilise other kinds of disposable cutlery such as disposable spoons in Hyderabad on Tuesday.

With single use plastics being banned the government, restaurateurs utilise other kinds of disposable cutlery such as disposable spoons in Hyderabad on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

It is business as usual across the city as hundreds of curry points, dal and rice kiosks, coconut vendors, and food trucks catered to thousands of customers at lunchtime on Tuesday. At the Irani cafes where hundreds of thousands of cups steaming tea is dispensed every day, the colourful cups filled trash bins. At an upscale cafe in Secunderabad, water is a bottle of water. “Washing glasses to high hygiene standards is time consuming. This cost effective,” says the bearer.

“Curry and rice for ₹80. Extra curry you have to pay more. I don’t know about any ban,” said a food seller, while heaping up rice on a green plastic plate, on the kerb of Vengal Rao Park. As hungry cab and auto sellers stopped by to grab a bite, the green plates covered with thin plastic sheets piled up.

“I use three packets of these sachets. Each has 100 sachets,” says a mirchi bajji seller standing near Irram Manzil Metro station. However, a token change has been made by some restaurants that are now using wooden spoons and aluminium-coated plastic packets.

For the Irani cafes, the ban on plastic cups is a policy flip after two years. “When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the government asked us to use only disposable plates and cups,” said Hassan at Red Rose Café. “Customers said they preferred these cups to ceramic cups when we tried to re-introduce them six months back,” said Hassan. Interestingly, the polystyrene cup holds just 40 ml of tea instead of the 90 ml in ceramic cup.

The ban on plastics has seen many avatars in India. The first one was notified in September 1999: Plastics Manufacture, Sale and Usage Rules. The one constant has been the obsession with the thickness of the carry bag. The first ban in 1999 specified that the bags should be thicker than 20 microns. The 23-year-old ban specified the carry bags and containers made with virgin plastic should be white or natural shade.

Two years later, the Andhra Pradesh government banned coloured plastic bags thinner than 20 microns in April 2001. The penalties included cancellation of trade licences for violators and fines between ₹2500 and ₹50,000.

Two years later, the Centre again amended the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 but the ban remained on paper. The earliest ban even specified the dyes that could be used to colour the plastic used for food packaging: IS:9833:1981.

The law was amended again in July 2011. Now it was called ‘Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011’.

After the new government took charge at the Centre, it brought in ‘Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016’. Without any change in the ground.

The August 2021 ban on plastic which came into force on July 1, 2022, redefined plastic items with the prohibition on “plastic item intended to be used once for the same purpose before being disposed of or recycled.” But the wave of plastic seems to show no sign of ebbing.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2022 1:18:27 pm |