The ban on plastic is unlikely to succeed in the absence of an alternative to carry and pack food items, according to experts in waste management.
Experts say that the decision taken by the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) to ban plastic carry bags in the city from October 2 without actually providing an alternative will lead to a slight inconvenience to buyers and vendors.
Fabric-based bags such as silk, jute, cotton are great alternatives as they are both biodegradable and reusable, but they are costly to be considered for a one-time use, feel the experts. While paper bag is a good choice as a cheap alternative to plastic shopping bags, there is a major harm in using them. Sellers will find it difficult to pack food items like meat, eggs, sugar, pulses and flour in a newspaper and, therefore, they are confused over the alternative, say experts. Vendors say that if they don’t offer a bag, customers go to a different vendor.
Ban on plastic is not new to Panaji. The CCP had imposed a ban on plastic below 40 microns in the year 2011 as part of the Chaka Chak Goa campaign but these thin bags continued to be manufactured, vendors continued to procure them and consumers continued to demand them.
A waste management consultant Pravin Paul says it is not feasible to bring a change overnight but Goa can replicate ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ model which is famous and successful in Bengaluru. Under this campaign, awareness is created among people to get their own bags to the market to reduce the usage of plastic and vendors were asked to buy biodegradable cellulose bags instead of plastic.
In Bengaluru, there are a number of companies that manufacture and supply 100 per cent biodegradable carry bags, water bottles, cups, plates, straws, tableware, pouches made from natural starch, vegetable oil derivatives and vegetable waste which are the best substitutes to plastic grocery carry bags and everyday single-use products.
In order to help in implementation of plastic ban, many social entrepreneurs in Bengaluru started a model of borrowing a bag. Under this model, the stores and shops can buy cloth bags from the team at a fixed cost. These will be rented to customers who need bags, at Rs 20, Rs 30 or Rs 40 depending on the size. People can get their deposit back if they return the cloth bag within the scheduled time.
In Guwahati, the Municipal Corporation encourages people to bring their own bags – be it paper bag, cloth bag or any other bag and also has also tied up with self-help groups (SHGs) to make paper bags, which are biodegradable, ranging between Rs 5 and Rs 14.