Mumbai: 52-year-old Sanjay Deshpande has been selling vegetables in Mumbai’s famous Dadar market since last 25 odd years. And in so many years, it was for the first time that he willingly risked his business for the sake of environment. His flat refusal to pack sabzis in a plastic bag led his loyal customers to opt for another vendor. Like Sanjay, vendors and customers across the city are suffering in one way or another after plastic items were banned in Maharashtra on March 23.
To fight the growing plastic menace in the state, the government imposed a ban on several plastic items including bags, single-use disposable items made of plastic and thermocol dish, cups, plates, glasses, bowls, forks, spoons, straw and containers. The order has been a comprehensive one as it banned not just manufacture but also usage, storage and distribution of items made of plastic. Residents of Mumbai have been given time till June 23 to get rid of plastic items post which action will be taken against anyone found with a banned plastic item.
Ever since the ban has been imposed, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in Mumbai has taken numerous steps to ensure a swift and smooth execution of the ban.
5 Steps Taken By Mumbai Authorities After The Plastic Ban
- The BMC has launched a mega rath yatra which will go on for three months across the city to inform the people about the ban. So far, it has reached out to around 1.5 lakh people and has managed to sell 5,000 plastic alternative items such as cloth bags in the city.
- The BMC has placed black coloured bins across the city where citizens can deposit plastic waste. Once the bin becomes full, BMC trucks will collect all the waste and transfer it to one of the 36 dry waste collection centres in the city.
- A toll-free helpline (1800-222-357) has been launched where citizens can place a call and request the administration to pick up plastic waste from their houses. 24 trucks have been deployed to meet the pick-up requests.
- On the official website of BMC, contact numbers of organisations, companies, NGOs, Self-Groups have been uploaded. Citizens can contact them to procure eco-friendly options.
- By end of this month, the corporation hopes to install more than 100 plastic crushers across the city. Citizens can deposit PET bottles in them.
How Feasible Is Maharashtra’s Plastic Ban? Reactions To The Ban
Swati Sambyal, Programme Manager, Centre for Science and Environment: The plastic ban will be a success only if every Mumbaikar absorbs it. Plastic consumption is so high in our day-to-day lives that eradicating it overnight is not possible. Thus, the whole focus should have been on social engineering. People were taken aback when the ban was announced, and this goes to reflect the lack of preparation done towards the ban.
Deya, Waste Management Expert: In terms of awareness, many shopkeepers and retailers mistook the three-month buffer time and are under the impression that the ban has been lifted. In Santacruz, vendors near the station stopped giving plastic carry bags post the ban. The moment the ban was extended, polythenes were back. The time given to get rid of plastic was misconstrued by many.
Ronak Jadhav, Filmmaker: I am a filmmaker and often on sets we keep plastic cutlery in stock to have our food. I am fine with getting alternatives, but I am not willing to shed extra money for it. The question of plastic alternatives being readily available and affordable is something I am worried about.
Priyanka Shah, A Party Planner: My profession is getting affected due to the ban. I have to charge extra to my clients for arranging a party or an event. Non-plastic decorating items are difficult to find in Mumbai. There is one organisation, I came across in Pune, that supplies decorating items for green parties. Transporting them to Mumbai will cost me extra but I have no other option.
Experts Speak: What Can Be Done To Make Plastic Ban A Success In Mumbai?
As for the implementation and monitoring stage of the ban, experts fear that the city will meet the same fate as the national capital has.
It took less than a week in Delhi for people to start using plastic bags after it was banned. One of the major reason was the lack of vigilance and a lag in executing punishments. A decentrailised system is needed to ensure that there are no gaps or corruption. For instance, a traffic cop should be given the authority to issue a challan to a citizen who is found with a banned plastic item. If Mumbai has to ensure that the ban isn’t temporary, both, authorities and people must take up the responsibility. Otherwise, it will just be like another ban, says Ms Sambyal.
The authorities must take full charge of providing alternatives to prevent people from switching back to plastics. In fact, for a few months it should give alternatives at a subsidised rate so that people get into the habit, she adds.
Echoing Ms Sambyal’s point of citizens taking the ban seriously, Ms Deya says, “Source segregation is the key to any waste management problem. As citizens, we fail to even distinguish between dry and wet garbage. I keep aside my plastic waste and prevent it from getting mixed with food or any other waste. This way I can give it to the BMC, raddiwaala or a local recycler. A little alertness on our part can boost the plastic ban.”
Conclusion: Mumbai’s Plastic Ban So Far
It has been a little over a month and so far, the city has deposited 120 tonnes of plastic waste to the government.
The response from people has been positive. People are approaching their local municipal offices to inquire about the ban. In addition, people are keeping aside banned plastic items and giving it away to municipal garbage collectors, says Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, BMC.
On asking if there is any target that they hope to achieve in terms of collecting plastic waste he says, “It has been only a month, it is too early to set a goal.”
Mumbai generates around 700 metric tonnes of plastic waste per day, thus making it the biggest plastic waste generating city in the country after Delhi and Chennai. The growing plastic menace has led to several problems in the city – right from clogging drains, polluting beaches to air pollution caused due to burning of plastic. The move, thus, garnered huge support from general public, environmentalists and celebrities.
With Maharashtra generating upto 2,820 metric tonnes of plastic waste daily, the state pollution control board’s decision to ban plastic is a big step. However, the question remains on the enforcement and sustenance of the plastic ban in the days ahead. Making 1.84 crore people of Mumbai ditch plastic, an item which is omnipresent, is the biggest challenge that lies in front of the authorities.