New Delhi: Three months ago, on March 23, Maharashtra’s Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam announced a state-wide ban on plastic items such as plastic bags, disposable plastic products – spoons, forks, cups, plates, glasses, bowls, and containers, disposable thermocol items and Plastic or thermocol decoration products for each and every person living in the state. The state government gave everyone three months’ time to ditch plastic and switch to greener alternatives and set the final deadline as June 23 saying, ‘If any person, be it consumer, manufacturer, hotelier is found using the banned plastic items in the state from June 23, he/she will be fined for Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 for first and second time offence. Whereas, a third-time offender will be fined Rs 25,000 and can also face three months imprisonment.’
As the state gears up for the implementation of the ban in two days, here’s how Pune is gearing up to make this big green switch.
Steps Taken By Pune Municipal Corporation
The civic body has undertaken awareness campaigns to inform the citizens about the nature of the plastic ban, through various on-ground activities, jingles, radio ads, newspaper ads, hoardings.
We divided the awareness campaigns into different segments so that we can cater to a larger audience and make sure that the implementation of the ban is done effectively from June 23. Our first step was to educate the consumers and shopkeepers – we targeted famous Pune markets and started holding the on-ground awareness campaign, which included – why they should ditch plastic, what is the deadline of the plastic ban, things to know about the plastic ban such as what is included and what is not and thirdly on how they can ditch and opt for greener alternatives, said Suresh Jagtap, Deputy Commissioner of Pune Municipal Corporation.
Apart from this, the municipal corporation has deployed squads of 8 inspectors to monitor and implement the plastic ban from June 23 in the city.
Moreover, the civic body has also been quick to provide green alternatives – they have roped in many NGOs in the city to provide cloth/jute bags.
Talking about how effective the municipal corporation thinks this ban will be, Suresh Jagtap added, “There is already a ban in the city on the usage of plastic items below 50 microns – the fine for the ban is same as this ban. And in last one year, PMC has been successful in fining people who violated the rule. So far, we have collected approximately 5 lakhs through fines. Moreover, as soon as this ban was notified by the Minister Ramdas Kadam, we started seizing plastic items from our markets in order to pass on a message of plastic-free Pune. In three months, we have seized 32,587 kilograms of plastic, 4,483 kilograms of thermocol and 861 kilograms of non-woven polymer.”
From Civic Body To Pune Restaurants And Hotelier Association
On the other hand, highlighting how hotels and restaurants in Pune are gearing up for the plastic ban, Ganesh J Shetty, President of Pune Restaurants And Hotelier Association said,
Actually, if you speak about the alternatives of plastic, there is not much available in the market for now. We are in a process of replacing polybags with cotton bags, straws with paper straws, cutlery with wooden or steel cutlery in Pune hotels and restaurants. But the cost of the products will be high as the greener alternatives are expensive. So, now the price brunt will have to be borne by both us and the consumers. Cloth bags alone are coming at a cost price of Rs 10, we are unable to rely on the cheaper alternative – paper bags as they are not durable enough to take the load of food items.
Mr Shetty also added that the association has met the government on Wednesday to ask them for some relaxations in the current plastic ban, he said,
“We have highlighted our concerns to the government, we have asked them if we can be allowed to use the plastic containers as for now we have no alternatives. We have given the government an option that if they allow us to use the plastic containers then all the restaurants and hotels will take the responsibility for its recycling. We have given this solution to the board and have said that the containers will have the necessary manufacturer details written on it such as name, phone number, GST ID and the contact number. Moreover, we will streamline a provision for a buyback system – say if the consumer returns us the plastic container we will give them Rs 2.”
It is being expected that the government may issue fresh guidelines to the association within a seven-day time frame.
This is our plan A, if it doesn’t work, we will rely on steel cutlery and for home deliveries instead of sending a plastic container we will have a system in place for steel containers wherein the users will be given the respective item on it with a condition that they will take the item and return the container to the delivery boy, added Mr Shetty.
Famous Eateries Of Pune Gear Up To Switch From Plastic
A spokesperson from one of Pune’s landmarks German Bakery said that from last one week they have shifted from plastic bags to paper bags and have stopped giving spoons/forks or any kind of plastic cutlery in their takeaways items. Inside the bakery, they are using steel cutlery.
“We are supporting the plastic ban in whatever way we can, the ban is for us, for our betterment, we all should follow it,” said the spokesperson.
McDonald’s, on the other hand, has switched to eco-compostable wooden spoons, paper straws, paper cups last month.
Mcdonald’s spokesperson added, “We have made a green switch, currently we are exploring options for the lid which is used to cover the drinks. We are still depending on plastic for it, as of now, we have not found any suitable alternative.”
Is The Change Visible On Ground: Citizens Speak
25-year-old Akshita Shirodkar who lives in Koregaon said that the change is visible only in the markets in the big shops; it is yet to reach the small vendors like a sabziwalas. She said,
I don’t see much of the change in the markets, apart from seeing one green alternative – like a cotton carry bag, I haven’t seen anything in the city yet and we are just one day away from the ban.
23-year-old Anuja Sansare who stays alone and relies on home delivery every now and then added,
My food packaging is still the same – it is of plastic. I have a box full of plastic spoons and forks at my place as every now and then I get one in my home delivery food items. So, I am not sure what changes to expect with the plastic ban in one days’ time.
Currently, a detailed action plan has been commissioned by the higher authorities in Pune to choke the supply of plastic bags in the city from June 23. Along with this, the authorities have also been active in providing the green alternatives to the public for plastic bags, but still, a lot of ground remains to be covered.