Post ban, plastic products make a comeback at Mugappair in Chennai

Little over a month since the enforcement of plastic ban, 6.09 tonnes of the forbidden single-use products have been collected in January from Ambattur zone which Mugappair belongs to.

This is higher than the city average and indicates that slowly plastic is making a comeback into the locality.

During the initial days of the ban, vendors refrained from using plastic products after news of seizures, reprimands and fines by civic authorities on violators made the headlines. However, since there is a lull in the active patrolling by authorities inspecting shops, the plastic products have returned, especially in roadside stalls and grocery stores.

According to data from the Chennai Corporation, 88 tonnes of banned single-use plastics have been seized from various parts of the city in January. Out of this, 6.09 tonnes have been collected in Ambattur zone and 4.1 tonnes in neighbouring Anna Nagar. Compared to the neighbourhood, areas such as Tiruvottiyur (2.55 tonnes), Manali (3.23 tonnes), Tondiarpet (4.94 tonnes), Alandur (1.97 tonnes) and Adyar (2.43 tonnes) fare better.

In the neighbourhood, markets in Koyambedu and JJ Nagar Bazaar Road can be seen giving out plastic bags to the customers freely. The reason is the high cost of alternatives to plastics.

Sarada, a vegetable vendor on Bazaar Road, says, “I buy a pack of 100 plastic bags for Rs 40. If I switch to jute or cloth bags, I will have to spend Rs 5 per bag. I don’t know if customers would be happy if I charge for the bags too.”

TASMAC bars in the neighbourhood too have reverted to using plastic cups after briefly using glass tumblers. An employee of a bar near Sivasakthi Cinemas in Padi said, “There are many practical problems to using glass tumblers. The intoxicated people might break it and it won’t be possible to collect the cost from them. The customers also prefer plastic tumblers as they are used to them and raise hygiene concerns, whether the glass tumblers are washed well.”

A customer of the bar however said that’s not true. “The bars make a killing by selling plastic cups at a high price. They charge Rs 10 sometimes for a cup that costs not more than Rs 2 and it goes to their pockets and not to the government. That is the truth.”

The situation is not bleak though. Though the shopkeepers refuse to change, the residents themselves are making efforts stop using plastics wherever they can. Mouli, a pharmacy owner said, “We still have old stock of plastic covers left but a lot of customers themselves refuse to take them. Almost 50 per cent of the people who walk into my shop today who buy items in bulk, bring their own bag.”

Residents who are consumers play an equal role along with the government and shopkeepers to ensure that the plastic ban becomes a success. Associations and schools play a huge part in spreading the message. Recently, Amaravati Nagar Residents Association and students of Velammal school have taken a pledge to stop using plastic.

A Harsha Vardhan