|Title||Despite state-level bans, plastic bags still suffocate India’s cities|
|Date||2018-03-09 PM 4:50:20||Hit||26|
Half of India’s states and union territories have introduced a blanket ban on plastic bags, and yet many shoppers remain wedded to the flimsy carrier bags while plastic waste still litters the streets of the South Asian nation.
In mid-January, Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir became the latest state to prohibit all polythene bags, in accordance with a ruling by its High Court.
It joins 17 other states and territories governed by New Delhi that have imposed a complete ban on the sale and use of plastic bags, including Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
Five other states - Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal - have partial bans on the use of plastic bags around sites of religious, historical or natural importance, or during the pilgrimage season, according to data provided to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by India’s Central Pollution Control Board.
Despite this, change is barely visible on the ground.
In mountainous Jammu and Kashmir, for example, shopkeepers and vegetable sellers still pack goods in plastic carrier bags before handing them over to customers.
“We have been hearing this for a long time - I don’t think (the ban) is going to work,” said Mohammad Yasin, who sells vegetables in Srinagar city’s Zainakote area.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir had already banned bags made of polythene - a common form of plastic - with a thickness of less than 50 microns a year ago, but to little effect.
“It is not only up to us - the customers share major responsibility. They should carry their own reusable bags. If they do so, the ban will work,” Yasin said.
More importantly, the country needs to stop making polythene, he added.
Several other shopkeepers the Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke to agreed.
“If the government is serious about stopping the use of polythene, it should ban its manufacturing. That will force people to carry their own bags,” said Abdul Rashid, a shopkeeper in Srinagar’s commercial hub, Lal Chowk (Red Square).
India’s plastics industry employs about 4 million people, and has more than 30,000 processing units, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation, set up by the government to promote “Made in India” products internationally.
Domestic consumption of plastic is expected to reach 20 million metric tonnes per year by 2020, while exports of plastic products were worth $7.64 billion in 2015-16.
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