Karnataka considers total ban on plastic bags

In an effort to tackle ongoing waste management concerns, Karnataka state government announced recently that it will consider strengthening its legislation against plastic carry bags, using the next two weeks to assess the possibility of completely banning their manufacture and use.

Author Anna Rees, 09.05.12

In an effort to tackle ongoing waste management concerns, Karnataka state government announced recently that it will consider strengthening its legislation against plastic carry bags, using the next two weeks to assess the possibility of completely banning their manufacture and use.

The state currently has a ban on the manufacture and use of plastic bags which are less than 40 micron thick, though the body in charge of monitoring this rule, the Karnataka Pollution State Control Board (KPSCB), has been accused of doing a poor job of enforcing this ban.

Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that some parts of India’s urban areas are choking on plastic (not to mention the animals who ingest it as this story of two NGOs recovering 50kg of plastic bags from the stomach of a cow can attest to). As part of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s proposal, violators of a plastic bag ban could face up to three years in jail, proving that the plethora of polyethylene is no joking matter to Minister Sogudu Shivanna.

Given that plastic carry bags only gained widespread use about half century ago, it is difficult to determine their exact lifespan. They are, in fact, not biodegradable but photodegradable, meaning they break down into smaller and smaller particles which can eventually be absorbed into soil and waterways. Depending who you ask, some estimates have a plastic bag’s photodegradability pegged at 500 years while others state that it could take up to 1,000 years.

Of course, it is not as easy as just saying “stop” when it comes to manufacturing and using plastic bags. The plastics industry employs a vast number of people. There are also the behavioural aspects to this issue—many people simply think it inconceivable to bring a bag from home when shopping or find an alternative for carrying things.

There are easy alternatives to using plastic carry bags. Below are some tips for ditching the plastic:

  • Earthsoul India produces bio-plastic bags which are made from non- edible vegetable oils and starch (polyethylene bags are oil-based) and can be composted. The bags are durable, waterproof and can carry up to 20kg of goods.
  • Bring your own cotton or canvas bag from home. These are durable and can be easily folded up tight and tucked away into a handbag when not being used.
  • Keep any plastic bags you already have and re-use them.
  • Use a wicker basket.
  • The ultra-adventurous can go all out and use a foldable shopping trolley.

Should the ban on plastic carry bags in Karnataka come into effect, it will require heavy monitoring to ensure its consistent execution. Similar bans on plastic have already occurred in Rajasthan, Kerala, Sikkim, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, each region facing its own set of implementation and enforcement problems.

Author: Anna Rees/ RESET editorial

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