Maharashtra plastic ban: Govt seems determined to implement 18 March order, here's all you need to know

Maharashtra government's decision to ban "manufacture, sale, use, distribution and storage" of several plastic goods and materials has attracted much attention with aggrieved industries terming it as an arbitrary step while environmentalists championing it as a much-needed effort to curb generation of plastic waste in the state.

Caught in this are people of Maharashtra, many of whom are suddenly finding themselves out of bags at shops, vegetable markets, hawkers, malls, almost everywhere. Many are equally unaware that being caught with plastic bag could force them to cough up anywhere from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 in fine and a three years jail term.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

And while the ban is in effect, reports are claiming that the government has extended the time to cope up with the 'withdrawal' of plastic by three months. Btu despite the temporary compromise, the state argued on Wednesday that plastic is a serious environmental hazard which affects the health of human beings and animals.

But this relaxation with the deadline on the plastic ban, has created a lot of confusion as to what exactly is this plastic ban and what does it encompass? Is everything made of plastic banned, or only certain items are banned? Let's take you through the basics of this ban:

What is banned?

Ideally, everything and almost anything that is made of plastic and choking the drains and the nallahs across the city during monsoon (and the roads outside your house as a result), and is somehow also finding its way to the digestive tracts of whales, cows, dolphins and every other creature, and thus killing them.

Replying to four petitions challenging the plastic ban at the Bombay High Court on Wednesday, the State gave the example of the dead whale recently found in Mumbai coast. "Autopsy report... confirmed the presence of plastic waste in its stomach. Plastic waste is also found in the stomach of dead cows," the State said in its affidavit.

And the government isn't lying (see it yourself). The government has prepared a list of banned plastic items, with the focus highly centred around disposable plastic items. The list at the moment includes:

  • Plastic bags (with handle and without handle),
  • Disposable materials made from plastic and thermocol (disposable dish, cups, plates, glasses, fork, bowl, container, disposable dish/bowl used for packaging food in hotels, spoon, straw, non-woven polypropylene bags, cups/pouches to store liquid, packaging with plastic to wrap or store the products, packaging of food items and food grain material, etc).
  • Thermocol items for decoration.

Where's the banned effective

Everywhere. Right from individuals to schools, colleges, clubs, cinema halls and theatres to offices, hotels, restaurants, shops, malls, hawkers, markets, usage of plastic is banned everywhere in the state. It's also banned near beaches, public places, bus stands and railway stations in Maharashtra. So, if you are taking the train (local or outstation), you are advised not to carry any plastic bags. Besides, plastic is also banned in all tourist places, forest and reserved forest as well as eco-sensitive areas.

So, problematic? Well, if the state has to reduce the nearly 1,200 metric tonnes of plastic waste that it generates every day, the ban appears to be the only way. Still, don't believe it? Ask what's living is like to those who stay near Mumbai's Deonar or one of the other dumping grounds in their city.

What is allowed

The list of allowed plastic items is not short, but each item comes with its own terms and conditions. Read carefully:

  • On 23 March, the government banned all plastic bottles with holding capacity of less than 500 ml while allowing PET or PETE bottles made of high-quality food grade virgin Bisphenol-A (BPA) free material and with liquid holding capacity not less than 0.5 litres.
  • However, after a body of plastic manufacturers met environment minister Ramdas Kadam, the order was adapted to include all bottles but with a buyback scheme. According to the revised orders, manufacturers, sellers, and traders will also get three months time to set up a recycling mechanism and plants in place to ensure timely collection of empty bottles. The buyback price was earlier set at Rs 2 for a bottle with the capacity of a litre and above and Re 1 for a bottle between 500 ml and one litre is Re 1. Buyback price for sub-500ml bottles is not yet announced.
  • Plastic used for packaging of medicines is allowed.
  • Compostable plastic bags or material used for plant nurseries, horticulture, agriculture, handling of solid waste, however, the purpose of use shall be prominently printed on it with “use exclusively for this specific purpose only”. A certificate from the Central Pollution Control Board Manufacturers will also be required prior to marketing or sale of compostable plastic carry bags for this purpose.
  • To manufacture plastic and plastic bags for export purpose in an SEZ or plastic cover/wrap use in manufacturing. But the guidelines to recycle or reuse should be printed prominently.
  • Milk pouches are allowed for the time being. However, the govt order would require all milk dairies to use food grade virgin plastic bags not less than 50-micron thickness for packaging of milk. These packets will also come with a buyback price of not less than Rs 0.50 for recycling. It will be the responsibility of milk dairies, retail sellers and traders to ensure that such buyback mechanism, collection and recycling system is in place and operational.
  • Garbage bags are also exempted from the ban for three months.

What's the deadline?
Though no official date has been announced, all rules regulating the use of plastic items (disposable items as well as PET or PETE bottles) will become effective in three months. Manufacturers, traders, sellers, as well as users, are expected to dispose existing stock of banned plastic items within three months after the order was notified and create a mechanism to recycle all the regulated-but-allowed items such as plastic bottles, milk pouches, etc.

With inputs from PTI


Updated Date: Apr 12, 2018 17:40 PM

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