New Delhi: On June 23, 2018, Maharashtra, the second-most populous state became the 18th state in the country to impose a plastic ban. Ensuring all stakeholders including citizens, manufacturers, vendors, have clarity on plastic items included and excluded from the ban and have ample time to switch to eco-friendly alternatives, the Maharashtra government last year on March 23 rolled out a detailed notification titled ‘Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products (Manufacture, Usage, Sale, Transport, Handling and Storage) Notification, 2018’.
It has been over a year since the plastic ban came into effect, and without a doubt, the state has shown a commendable improvement and it is evident with the decline in the plastic generation has halved from 1,200 tonnes per day (before the ban) to 600 tonnes per day, today, as per Maharashtra pollution control board (MPCB). According to the information shared by a senior official from MPCB, since the ban, the state has collected a fine of Rs. 6 crore, closure directions have been given to 415 plastic industries and 1,200 tonnes of banned plastic has been seized.
Speaking to NDTV on the sidelines of the 12-Hour NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India Swasthagraha on October 2, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, who has been instrumental in pushing through the ban on single-use plastics in Maharashtra, touched upon a number of issues, including the need for preventive healthcare, sanitation and how Swachh or Clean India has campaign became a national issue.
Question: How effective has the plastic ban in Maharashtra been?
Aaditya Thackeray: When we first started off with the single-use disposable plastic to be banned in Maharashtra, there was a lot of debate over it but we sat with all the associations and industries related to plastic and that is how we got about this thing. The awareness has been extremely high and I think that is the biggest success because when you are implementing things on the ground, the first thing you want is awareness among every individual to know what are its pros or cons. So I think, right from kids to elderly people, from household people to industry workers, everyone knows what the pros and cons of plastic are. Of course, some of the plastic bags were coming from other states where you didn’t have a plastic ban but with a nationwide ban that would be a real success. For any movement, like the plastic ban, as it was more of a movement than a plastic ban it will take us certainly three to four years to achieve 100 per cent success.
Question: Can India achieve the target of eliminating single-use plastics by 2022 as indicated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on the occasion of the 45th World Environment Day (June 5), last year?
Aaditya Thackeray: Absolutely, we have been a country where we have always worshipped nature – be it water, the sun god, or the fire. We also have five elements of nature. Once we started bringing them into our houses as idols that’s when we started disrespecting the real sources of these Gods and started polluting them. We have always been a country that has respected and worshipped nature. I think it’s just for us to reignite that worship within our own heart and start respecting nature. We can always lead the way in the world. We are a huge population. If we show the world the way I think the world will follow.
Question: Awareness, especially among citizens is the key, but apart from cognizance, what else is required to achieve the target?
Aaditya Thackeray: Of course you need government support which is there. You need awareness because you need support from the people. This cannot just be a ban because when we started off, we have always said that this is not just a ban, it’s a movement. It is something which is a positive ban, we need to make it into a movement and imbibe the best of it into everyone’s household and heart.
Question: Is banning a solution or there is a way to phase out the use of single-use plastics?
Aaditya Thackeray: Banning is never a solution but as I said, we had come to a point where we needed to ban it because all our farms, fields, open spaces, water, drainages were being choked by single-use disposable plastic. Sometimes you need to take the step to ban; once it is banned we need to convert it into a movement.
Question: For our readers, please suggest some easy ways to eliminate single-use plastic from one’s life.
Aaditya Thackeray: I think we have shown the way. If you see most of our shops and establishments, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, we have gone plastic free. Plastic straws are out. We don’t see plastic straws anymore in all these private places. Plastic bags have gone from these places. You have got cloth bags, jute bags, artificial plastic which is mock plastic coming in from starch or something like that, that is a major way. Thirdly, I think if we can adopt just these two, then you already have other things that are banned for example plastic cups are gone and cutlery is gone. The most important part in this is to know what are we doing to this planet and to realise there is no other planet, there is no planet B. This is the only planet we have. We don’t inherit the planet, we come here on rent and we leave it for the future generations. So if we can just leave a better, cleaner world, if we can respect nature, worship nature in a way of just respecting nature. We have in our country a tradition of doing ‘namastey’ and bowing to the god in the other person, if we can do that to every living aspect of the world, I mean everything is living today, and respect mother Earth, I think that’s good enough.