TNPCB says plastic ban can be enforced only with people participation

Chennai: Come 1 January, the much-expected move of ‘plastic ban‘ will be implemented across Tamilnadu as announced by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. With just a few days left for the D-day, the government agencies are on their feet round-the-clock to enforce the mandate and bring down the impact of plastics on the environment.

For the past several months the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has been actively creating awareness about the move and advocating the usage of safe alternatives to plastic.

“We have been holding meetings about the move with people who run malls, IT sector, TASMAC, choultry and shops. To create awareness, the National Green Corps wing in schools has been actively working towards it,” said TNPCB chief scientific officer Sai Prasad.

Only 10-20 per cent people abide by it, fearing the law. So, it is public participation that is important to ensure the move is a success, said the officer.

A ruling has been given to stop manufacturing plastic products to companies in the business. “In addition, the local bodies are also doing their bit towards banning single-use plastic items. As they are also seizing and imposing fines, the message has already reached the public. Even though there has been a rider imposed, the behavioural change must come from the public,” added Sai Prasad.

Even though the local bodies have been taking measures to ban single-use plastic, however, it is evident that residents / shop-owners are still using them.

Asked if fine would be levied if they fail to comply with the rule, he said, “It becomes difficult to impose the rule by levying fine. It is certainly possible like how the government made rainwater harvesting mandatory several years ago. We expect behavioural change to happen from the grassroots-level.”

In view of the ban, chances of bio-plastic alternatives that exactly resemble plastic entering the market are high and it is learnt that only Central Institute of Plastics Engineering & Technology (CIPET) in the city is equipped with tools to differentiate them.

Another challenge that the bureaucracy is posed with is that the unregistered class of vendors who manufacture carrybags at home. “They can just be blown up with small pellets of polypropylene,” he added.

Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) Urban Governance team researcher Kripa Ramachandran said, “We had a longer time to take measures for implementing than any other State. From the time the announcement was made, TNPCB had also crystallised the plan of action. There has been good awareness about the order among citizens, but not among traders, especially in market hubs like T Nagar, Mylapore, etc. They seem to be less prepared.”

“In terms of preparation, a lot of people are moving towards using polypropylene bags, which they consider to be non- plastic,” said Kripa.

There is also general apathy as the government has tried to impose bans on certain kind of plastics in the past, but they cannot be eradicated completely but will continue to be in production. Ideally, if the ban were to be implemented from next year, the procurement of raw materials should have been stopped. However, activists in the city opine that procurement of materials under the banned list continue to happen.

BANNED

* Plastic sheet or cling film used for wrapping food, spreading on dining table
* Plastic, plastic-coated plates, cups and thermocol plates and cups
* Plastic and thermocol tumblers
* Water sachets
* Plastic straws
* Plastic and plastic-coated carry bags of varying sizes and thickness
* Plastic flags
* Non-woven polypropylene bags

ALTERNATIVES

* Plantain leaves, lotus leaves, areca nut plates
* Aluminium foil
* Paper rolls
* Glass / metal tumblers
* Bamboo / wood products
* Paper straw
* Cloth / paper / jute bags
* Paper /cloth flags
* Ceramicware
* Edible cutlery
* Earthen pots

Bhavani Prabhakar