A year-and-a-half into the ban on single-use plastic (SUP) products by the Telangana State Pollution Control Board (TSPCB), the State seems to have failed in curbing its use as shopkeepers and street vendors continue to pack their products in SUP carry bags.
In a bustling Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) market at Ameerpet on a Sunday morning, fruit and flower vendors, jewellery and trinket sellers, sweet shops and the like were seen using plastic carry bags thinner than the permissible 120-micron ones. “Plastic bags are still the cheapest option for us as cloth, jute and paper bags are more expensive. Customers often do not carry a bag with them; they refuse to buy vegetables if we don’t give them bags,” said Saritha, a vegetable vendor at the market. Seconding her, other vendors said no check was taken place in the market since January. Some were unaware of the gravity of the ban itself.
While the organised sector has largely transitioned to using paper bags, major unorganised markets in Begum Bazaar, Bowenpally, Erragadda Model Rythu Bazaar and Moazzam Jahi, Gudimalkapur continue to sell goods in SUPs. Certain small-scale medical stores and roadside eateries, too, continue to use such plastic bags.
“We are responsible for curbing the production of banned plastic products. All manufacturers of plastic materials must register themselves with the TSPCB. We have a campaign for this purpose, and the regional and zonal officers are urged to register all the manufacturers. Once registered, we regulate the production, adhering to the rules of the ban,” senior social scientist of TSPCB W.G. Prasanna Kumar told The Hindu.
“The banned plastic products that is still being distributed in the market could be old stock or could be illegally produced and sourced from Maharashtra or Karnataka. There are routine checks in markets and fines are levied on manufacturers, distributors and consumers. However, the jurisdiction of surveillance lies with the State, not with civic bodies,” he added.
Lack of awareness
As per the latest GHMC data, out of the 8,000 metric tonnes (MT) of waste generated in the city, 1,080 MT accounts for plastic waste, within which single-use plastic remains the greatest chunk, i.e., 915 MT.
“We have State governments with no regard for the rules set by the Supreme Court. We have been demanding stringent action against the manufacturers of plastic products for years now, but in vain. Awareness on the hazardous effects of plastic products must be spread among the people via authorities, but those in power choose to look away,” said city-based environmentalist K. Purushotham Reddy.