Why is single-use plastic ban in Kolkata an uphill task for enforcers

Eliminate the impact of single-use plastic products?.(photo:IANSLIFE)
Representative image. Photo: IANS

Kolkata: Despite best efforts, the authorities in Kolkata and its suburbs are facing an uphill task while attempting to impose the ban on single-use plastic (SUP). The main reason is that even as fines are imposed, both on traders and customers, tonnes of SUP are continuing to flow into the market unchecked.

"You have turned this into a dhanda (racket). Why haven't you shut down the factories that make SUP? Instead of doing that, you raid shops and harass customers for using the material," a trader in Ballygunge told a Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) official during a drive. Others joined in and the team had to beat a hasty retreat.

According to the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB), 191 plastic carry bag manufacturers were warned against supplying SUP bags. So were factories supplying plastic granules to such bag manufacturers. However, little heed seems to have been paid to the warnings. Nearly all outlets in the city and suburbs continue to stock SUP carry bags. Traders pack items inside them for customers after looking across their shoulders for authorities out on raids.

"If something has to be banned, it has to be done in a sincere manner. Several products available in the market are packaged in SUP. The authorities aren't saying anything as these are large companies. Saris are arriving packed in SUP. So are shirts, trousers and other garments. Those who are being raided are small-time traders. Has anybody checked how much extra we are having to pay for paper packets? There has to be parity," a grocer at Bhowanipore said.

According to an official from the environment department, a total ban on the supply of SUP carry bags will take time.

"If we crack down on the factories, thousands will lose their jobs. This is not something we want. Our objective at the moment is to raise awareness among the citizens against the use of SUP. After all, it is the common man who suffers when SUPs block drains, resulting in waterlogging. It is the common citizen who suffers from respiratory distress when SUP is burnt as garbage. The idea is to bring down demand. Once this happens, supply will automatically stop," the official said.

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