Mumbai: Looking at the inconvenience and difficulty faced by the retail packaging industry, the Maharashtra government on June 27 made an exception in the ban. It removed the retail packaging at general stores and groceries from the list of banned items. Though, the retail packaging only for food items will be allowed, it has brought a huge relief to many small-time retailers across the state.
Plastic ban relaxed for the general stores and grocery stores which sells loose products like oil, rice, sugar, etc in retail packaging. This will be effective from tomorrow, 28th June, state environment minister Ramdas Kadam told ANI.
In other words, it means that plastic packets used to store food products like sugar, grains, pulses, oil, etc will be allowed.
While many retailers welcomed the move, common people questioned the character of the state-wide plastic ban and termed the recent roll back as a half-hearted move.
Here are reactions to the latest rollback to the ban on plastic used in retail packaging in Maharashtra:
Retailers Rejoice, But Some Remain Skeptic
From spices, grains, sweets, pulses to dry fruits, most of the things we sell are packed in plastic bags. Before the exemption came by, we did start telling people to carry containers and bags when coming to our shop. However, not everyone obliged, and we were forced to use banned plastic items. This exemption is a huge relief for us, says the owner of Meghsons, a grocery shop in Pune.
Many small-time retailers remained shut for two to three days after the ban was enforced on June 23 out of fear of paying the heavy penalty. Close to 25 farsan (Salty snacks) stores in Malad remained shut on the very first day of the ban thus suffering from loses.
Our great grandfather opened the farsan shop five decades ago here in Malad and since then our family has been into this. We have a total of eight shops spread across Mumbai, four being in Malad. All of our shops were shut and since it was Sunday we lost out on a lot of customers. We have more than sixty varieties of farsan and all of them are packed in plastic. It is not feasible to use paper bags during monsoons to pack our items. I really thank the government for this exemption, says Arvind Waghela, who runs the shop along with his brothers.
While many retailers like Arvind rejoiced, many raised questions about its ambiguity.
The roll back is definitely a good decision and we welcome it but we have been confused about the announcement. Only a statement was made and no notification was issued. Besides, retailing sector is huge and includes many other items apart from just food. If the manufacturing sector is being allowed irrespective of the item, then even the retailers should be allowed, says Viren Shah, President of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA).
Another retailer who sits in Mumbai’s Crawford market is not at all happy about the overall plastic ban including the exemption.
From toys that can fit in your pocket to ones that will occupy your entire room, I sell all kinds of toys. I have to keep the toys covered and packed otherwise the dust settles on them quickly. During monsoons, I require the plastic packaging the most. If an exception can made to food items then I request the government to allow use to use plastic atleast for monsoons, says Kunal Yadav.
Plastic Ban, A Good Move But Lacks Proper Planning: Experts
Calling the roll back on retail packaging as a profitable move for the small-time retailers, Ashok Sinha, Associate Director of Toxic Links says,
It takes time for the stakeholders to get used to the newly imposed ban and hence I am in favour of the exemption. Having said that, I truly believe that the exemption should have been for a limited period of time so that the retailers would get time to prepare themselves and arrange for alternatives.
Mr Sinha further encourages the ban and says it possible and feasible for the retailers to come up with alternatives to plastic packaging. There are several options available, one has to only research a bit and identify the packaging material that would suit his/her needs he says.
Calling the exemption as a reason for people to get away with using plastic items, Swati Sambyal, Programme Manager, Centre for Science and Environment says,
This exemption is like Delhi’s odd-even policy in which some exceptions were there but if the policy has to work completely then there should no exemptions. People will try to pressurise the government further and give exemptions as an example to back up their requests. Exemptions is simply diluting the effectiveness of the ban. Government should have looked at other states and learnt something from them.
Ms Sambyal suggests that instead of making exemptions, the state government should have imposed the ban in phases,
Maybe in phase one they should have just banned plastic bags and once people get used to it take another item instead of banning multiple items together.
Underlining the reason why people are unhappy with the plastic ban, a move that will protect the environment, Ms Sambyal further says, “The ban goes beyond just bringing about the behavioural change. Making plastic alternatives available at cheaper rates is something the authorities should have thought about. Not everyone can afford them and retailers fear the same and thus they prefer plastic packaging.”
Citizens React To The Relaxation on Plastics Ban For Retail Sector
Many citizens across the state are unclear about what items are banned and exemptions like these will only increase their confusion about what items are exempted says Sanjeev Agarwal, a resident of Mumbai.
State government must stick to its ban and not make exceptions for retailers. It’ll be difficult in the initial stages. We only need to get used to it, says Sanjeev.
Another resident of Mumbai, who is an active member of a Waste Management group says that a decision like plastic ban that will benefit the people and the environment in the long run should be not be reconsidered,
There should be no relaxation in the ban as once if stakeholders realise that government will mend ways then they will not think twice to pressurise the government in abolishing the ban altogether. We need to consider if a few jobs are important or our mother earth, says Girish Waingankar.
On June 23, the ban was imposed on single-use plastic items like plastic bags, disposable plastic products – spoons, forks, cups, plates, glasses, bowls, and containers, disposable thermocol items and Plastic or thermocol decoration products. Anyone found in possession of the banned items in the state will be penalised and fines range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 and there is possibility of jail term upto three months.