New Delhi: Nearly two years after a blanket ban on plastic was put in place in Karnataka in 2016, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has intensified its crackdown against plastic. Surprise checks, raids, closure of shops selling or using plastic bags have increased since earlier this month. A review meeting of the city’s plastic use scenario in June prompted the officials to intensify their crackdown after repeated notices and warnings against plastic use failed to convince plastic vendors.
Despite seizing over 1,000 tonnes of plastic in 2016-17 and collecting nearly Rs 2 crore in penalties, plastic continues to be rampant in Bengaluru’s shops. The BBMP, over the last two years, has sent several notices to plastic manufacturers and vendors, asking them to abide by the ban. But shopkeepers and vendors have continued to flout the ban, citing lack of cheaper alternatives. The BBMP however says that it has encouraged alternatives like cloth bags and earthenware, but shopkeepers and vendors simply refuse to use these. This was the reason why BBMP intensified the raids this year, said Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner of Solid Waste Management, BBMP.
We are carrying out daily checks this time because shopkeepers and vendors revert to plastics once the intensity of the raids die down. We have seized over 80 tonnes on plastic till now and nearly Rs 5 lakh in fines. Most of the plastic is coming from neighbouring states and BBMP is working on an action plan to stop the entry of plastics from other states, said Mr Khan.
Along with the raids, BBMP is also conducting awareness campaigns for the shopkeepers. The campaigns will involve officers visiting busy market areas in the city and explaining to vendors and shopkeepers about the hazards of using plastic and where and how they can obtain alternatives. BBMP plans to begin the campaign from August this year.
“We fine shopkeepers who violate the plastic ban, but we are also looking forward to cooperating with them and telling them about the hazards of using plastic and how they will be affected by it too,” said Mr Khan.
As per the Karnataka Pollution Control Board’s 2017 Annual Report, Bengaluru generated over 5,500 tonnes of waste daily, of which 1,000 tonnes was plastic waste. The ban, which came into effect from March 2016 included bags above 40 microns of thickness, thermocol products and plastic beads used for products such as artificial jewellery. The ban was announced in January 2015 by the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The BBMP had also planned to use seized plastic for road construction.
The ineffectiveness of the ban has however stalled many of BBMP’s plans. The BBMP’s December 2017 survey of waste generated within its city limits showed that there was only a marginal decrease in plastic waste generated, which stood at 980 tonnes daily. But Mr Khan says that segregation by some bulk waste generators in the last two years and not the ban itself may have been the cause for the marginal decrease in plastic waste generation.
“The impact of the ban has not been effective because seizing of plastics in the last two years by BBMP has not been methodical. The raids by BBMP were infrequent, and alternatives have not been promoted in the past two years. If the BBMP is planning to step up seizure activities this time, then it must provide and promote alternatives to plastic simultaneously for the ban to have maximum effect,” said Nalini Shekar, co-founder of Bengaluru based NGO Hasirudala which is working on recycling plastic waste.
Plastic ban of some form is in effect in 25 states in India. But the universal challenge across all states remains implementation and making alternative to plastic available readily across different sectors. Bengaluru is no exception to this challenge and is facing hardships to mitigate the same.