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Shoppers insist on polybags

Times of India – 18th December, 2012

By Swati Chandra

VARANASI: Vinod, a street food vendor at Godowlia market knows nothing about the recent ban imposed on the use of plastic bags. Instead, he remarks, “Customers often pester us with the demand for plastic bags. If I do not keep my stock of plastic bags ready, they will not come to my shop and the sale will be affected.”

Shopkeepers at busy markets like Godowlia, Chowk, Nai Sarak, Gurubagh said the demand for a polybag almost always follows a purchase. Aman Dwivedi, a shopkeeper at Gurubagh area said even if the customers are carrying their own bags, they still ask for plastic bags.

It may be mentioned here that polythene bags of less than 40 micron thickness were already banned while a 200 metre radius of river Ganga has been declared a polythene-free zone. However, the use of polybags even near the ghats and river Ganga is so rampant in the city that locals dwelling in these areas are themselves not aware of the ban that was imposed earlier.

The plastic bags are also a reason for blocked drains and sewer lines in many areas of the city. Plastics do not decay for centuries and stay in the environment. Toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of polythene and ordinary plastics may cause cancer or other diseases, apart from polluting water bodies, land and air during their disposal.

According to the city health officer BK Singh, nine health inspectors keep a check on the use of poly bags in these areas and they also check the use of cheap polybags (less than 40 microns) in other areas of the city. Ensuring proper implementation of the ban, every health inspector gives out a minimum of five challans every day. However, putting the ball in the district administration’s court, Singh informed that the expected targets are not achieved at present because of lack of strictness on the part of health inspectors under the district administration. From January 2012 to December 10, 2012, only 600 challans have been given out against shopkeepers selling articles in cheap bags, he informed further.

Advantages of biodegradable plastic bags

# Compost derived from biodegradable plastics increases the soil organic content as well as water and nutrient retention.

# Reduces chemical inputs in soil and suppressing plant disease.

# Biodegradable shopping and waste bags disposed of to landfill may increase the rate of organic waste degradation in landfills while enhancing methane harvesting potential and decreasing landfill space usage.

# The energy required to synthesis and manufacture biodegradable plastics is generally much lower for most biodegradable plastics than for non biodegradable plastics.

Disadvantages of plastic bags

# Non recyclable and sub standard plastics poses problems in collection, recycling and disposal.

# Littered plastic bags choke the drains and sewage lines.

# Indiscriminate plastic waste disposal on land makes the land infertile.

# Garbage mixed with plastics interferes in waste processing facilities and also cause problems in landfill operations.

# Burning of plastics emits carbon monoxide, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, dioxin, amines, nitrides, styrene, carbon tertra chloride, benzene, acetaldehyde.

Plastic Waste Management Rules 2011

# The thickness of the plastic bags should be greater than 40 microns.

# Carry bags can also be made from compostable plastics conforming IS/ISO:17088:2008

# No carry bags shall be made available free of cost by retailers to consumers.

# Multilayered pouches or sachets used for packaging of tobacco and other products shall not use plastic material in any form.

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