Mumbai trashes BMC's 'successful ban' claims as city vendors still use banned plastic

Updated: Jun 17, 2019, 08:31 IST | Team mid-day

mid-day test drive shows Mumbai still demands and is happily provided with plastic bags banned a year ago; vendors say first shut down factories that manufacture them

Mumbai trashes BMC's 'successful ban' claims as city vendors still use banned plastic

Life is plastic and fantastic for Mumbai once again. While the Maharashtra government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been making tall claims regarding the effective implementation of the plastic ban, a test drive by mid-day at various markets in the city has revealed a very different picture. Close to a year since the state implemented the ban, plastic bags are still being freely handed out in the open market.

In June 2018, the state government banned single use plastic bags and also stopped the usage of any kind of plastic carry bags. The ban was announced with much fanfare and people found using plastic bags were fined anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000. BMC had claimed that 310 of its officials would be visiting lakhs of shops in the city to check on the plastic usage. While the blue squad initially went easy on shop owners, there were over 15,000 shops that were eventually penalised. The civic body earned over R3 crore in fines for collecting 57,128 kg of plastic.

Also Read: 'Why isn't plastic ban implemented effectively yet?'

In June 2018, the state government had banned single use plastic bags and also stopped the usage of any kind of plastic carry bags, but there is scant regard for the prohibition in city markets now. Pic/Sameer Markande
In June 2018, the state government had banned single use plastic bags and also stopped the usage of any kind of plastic carry bags, but there is scant regard for the prohibition in city markets now. Pic/Sameer Markande

Fear has disappeared

In September 2018, mid-day had carried out a similar survey to check the use of plastic bags. Some vendors had refused to give them to us out of the fear of being fined R5,000. But that fear has long disappeared, along with the civic authorities' raids, and plastic bags are being handed out even without being asked for.

While BMC has been struggling to dispose of the plastic collected and packed over this year in its godowns, it has reduced the number of visits and action, sources said. The seized plastic was to be recycled by appointing a recycling company which was going to buy this at Rs 15 per kg, according to the tender drafted by the civic body.

Also Read: Plastic ban: BMC's blue squad to get daily targets for action against violators of ban

Despite being less than a kilometre away from the BMC headquarters, sellers near Crawford Market generously go through packets of plastic bags. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Despite being less than a kilometre away from the BMC headquarters, sellers near Crawford Market generously go through packets of plastic bags. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Citizens to blame, too

Further, BMC has been claiming that manufacturers producing illegal plastic bags are being shut down, however, the production of plastic bags seems to be on in full swing, going by the ones being freely handed out in the open market. Through the test-drive, mid-day also found citizens at fault. They continued to demand plastic carry bags, forcing vendors to stock them. Several vendors mid-day spoke to claimed that customers want vegetable vendors to provide plastic bags and if it is not provided, customers walk away without buying anything.

Island city Jute will set you free Malad market

At the popular Natraj Market, you can barely see any plastic. While the stores inside the market strictly do not use plastic, stalls on the road outside hand out bags if customers ask for them. Shops have found an alternative in jute bags. Kishor Vaishnav, who runs an embroidery shop, said, "The ban has to be followed very strictly. BMC officials raid anytime and fine shopkeepers. I've started using paper bags or newspaper."

On the streets, it is difficult to be 100 per cent sure about plastic being done away with. (Right) Shops inside the market have found an alternative in jute bags. Pics/Nimesh Dave
On the streets, it is difficult to be 100 per cent sure about plastic being done away with. (Right) Shops inside the market have found an alternative in jute bags. Pics/Nimesh Dave

On the streets, however, it is difficult to be 100 per cent sure about plastic being done away with. Abdul Aziz Shaikh, who has stalls selling shoes and clothes, said, "We do not have plastic in our stalls. Why take a risk?" Bhavesh Dharod, president of the Malad Shiv Sena Vyapari Associationsaid, "Inside the shopping complex and civic body markets, plastic has completely disappeared. But it is easily available especially with vegetable and fruit vendors. If plastic has been banned, where are these small vendors getting it from?"

- Pallavi Smart

Those in the know say no Andheri market - J P Road

At the JP Road stretch in Andheri West between SV Road Junction and Navrang Cinema, mid-day found that while some hawkers were aware of the plastic ban, there were others who handed out the bags without any hesitation. A vegetable vendor, Vijay, refused to pack cauliflower bought by mid-day in a plastic bag. But, the vendor sitting next to him said he had polythene bags and was happy to hand them out.

A vendor packed fruits for us in a plastic bag when we said we didn't have a cloth bag. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
A vendor packed fruits for us in a plastic bag when we said we didn't have a cloth bag. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

The vendor, who did not reveal his name, said, "We know that plastic has been banned, but the polythene bags I'm giving you are from the excess bag stock that I had bought before the ban. Also, I have been telling customers to bring their own bags." On the stretch towards Ram Mandir, we spotted more vendors using plastic bags. A vendor packed fruits for us in one when we said we didn't have a cloth bag. Upon being asked about the ban, he said, "We also understand that the ban is a good thing but authorities should have come up with alternatives. The ban will be implemented only when the production of plastic bags stops." The situation was thankfully different at Devraj Ganpat and Sons store, where we were firmly refused a plastic bag.

- Ranjeet Jadhav

Western Suburbs Plastic out, paper in Crawford Market

Shopkeepers near Crawford Market have no fear of being fined for using plastic bags and were seen openly selling their wares in them. Despite being less than a kilometre away from the BMC headquarters and having the market department office located in the same vicinity, traders selling fruits, school bags and even toys had packets of plastic bags that were being generously used.

A vendor near the police commissioner's office packed a dozen litchis in a black plastic bag
A vendor near the police commissioner's office packed a dozen litchis in a black plastic bag

mid-day first bought litchis from a vendor near the police commissioner's office and he packed a dozen in a black plastic bag. Another vendor selling water chestnuts also handed out plastic bags. In fact, several others were openly selling plastic garbage bags, too. Even though some people were carrying cloth bags of their own, they still took plastic bags from the vendors.

The situation, however, is different inside Crawford Market, where none of the shopkeepers keep plastic bags. Pics/Suresh KK
The situation, however, is different inside Crawford Market, where none of the shopkeepers keep plastic bags. Pics/Suresh KK

Imran Shipra, 36, who was out shopping with his wife, bought a school bag which was wrapped in a plastic bag by the shopkeeper. "Plastic bags should not be used, but in the rainy season, a cloth bag will get wet. So we had no choice but to take a plastic bag. The government should help create an alternative to these bags," he said. The situation, however, is different inside Crawford Market, where none of the shopkeepers keep plastic bags. Many customers were also seen carrying their own bags made of either jute or other cloth material. When this reporter asked for a plastic bag from a vegetable vendor inside, he informed us that plastic bags are banned and provided a paper bag instead.

- Arita Sarkar

Eastern Suburbs and Navi Mumbai

At the Chembur marker, vegetable vendor Sharavan continues to hand out the banned plastic bags. He said, "If the government wants to ban plastic bags, they should close down the factories that provide them, and give us an alternative. I buy 100 bags for Rs 60 from a distributor who comes from Masjid Bunder."

Vendors here continued to brazenly use the banned plastic bags, with one of them urging the government to shut the factories that manufacture them if they want to ban them. Pics/Sameer Markande
Vendors here continued to brazenly use the banned plastic bags, with one of them urging the government to shut the factories that manufacture them if they want to ban them. Pics/Sameer Markande

Ram, 26 , a fruit vendor, provides biodegradable bags which have a stamp on them. He said, "These bags are not allowed for us, but I buy them because customers argue with us. I pay R150 for 100 bags and I run through three packets in a day. It would be great if the government has a publicity campaign on the plastic ban and the environment."
At AP Mani Super Market in Chembur West, vegetables are packed in plastic bags that the vendors claimed were accepted by the government.

- Dipali Kriplani

Less than 50 micron-cosmos APMC, Navi Mumbai

At the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) market in Navi Mumbai, mid-day found plastic bags being freely used. Litchis were handed to us in one, with the vendor justifying them by saying, "These bags are allowed. They are of 50 microns. Only grocery shops have been asked to use these bags, but we buy them for our customers.

Litchis were handed to us in a plastic bag. Pic\Datta Kumbhar
Litchis were handed to us in a plastic bag. Pic\Datta Kumbhar

Even though they are expensive — 200 bags cost R150 — we still buy them because the customer is god." Some vendors hid their plastic bag stash in a dirty bag or under their baskets of vegetables. They would give them out only if the customer asked for one. At the Dana Market, every shop handed out cotton bags. But opposite that, shops selling school material, gifts and decorations freely handed out plastic bags. We bought a balloon packet for which the shopkeeper gave a pink polythene bag, saying, "You will find these everywhere. You, too, can buy these bags here."

- Anamika Gharat

Bagging the ban Dadar Market

At the market opposite the railway station in Dadar West, vendors seem to be unaware of the plastic ban, openly providing bags to customers. Vendors are at ease using these bags despite Dadar being an area that sees frequent BMC action. Interestingly, at the Dadar flower market, the vendors wrapped flowers in newspaper. They seemed to be the only ones who knew of the ban.

At the market opposite the railway station, fruit and vegetable vendors were seen giving out plastic bags, while flower vendors preferred using newspaper to pack their wares. Pic/Ashish Raje
At the market opposite the railway station, fruit and vegetable vendors were seen giving out plastic bags, while flower vendors preferred using newspaper to pack their wares. Pic/Ashish Raje

Fruit and vegetable vendor Sandeep Jaiswal was still handing out his wares in plastic bags. He justified this by saying, "The plastic bags I'm using were already there at home." Apple vendor Sonu, who also uses plastic bags, said, "Some men come and provide me with these bags. I don't know where these come from." Another vendor, Sangeeta Gaikare, was selling lemons packed in plastic bags. She said, "I buy these bags from this market itself. I need to provide them for my business." Meanwhile, the vendors were seen running away when BMC officials came around to fine them.

At least some vendors know about the ban. Flower seller Anil Kumar Maurya said, "We wrap flowers in newspaper as plastics bags are banned. Customers don't argue about it; if they want, these can be packed in biodegradable bags too."

- Dipali Kirpalani

Vendors' net practice Mulund Market

At Mulund market on Sardar Vallabhai Patel Road, vegetable vendors still hand out plastic bags. Vendor Pashuram Yadav had melons and bottle gourds pre-wrapped in plastic. He said, "These come wrapped from the Vashi market. I don't provide plastic to customers as it has been banned."

At Mulund market, some vendors also packed vegetables in net bags, but others were still handing out plastic bags. Pics/Sameer Markande
At Mulund market, some vendors also packed vegetables in net bags, but others were still handing out plastic bags. Pics/Sameer Markande

Vendor Shaliram Devram Naikore said, "We provide plastics bags only when customers ask for them." He was reluctant to tell us who sold the plastic bags to him. Some vendors here also packed vegetables in net bags. Vendor Raju Mali gave mid-day half a kilo of brinjals in a net bag that he feels is eco-friendly. Every month, he buys 10 kg of these bags, that come from Vashi, for R1,000. Vendor Manoj Kumar Kwasha, who also provides vegetables in net bags, said even these bags were not acceptable. "I provide plastic bags to the customers as there are no alternatives. In May, I paid a fine of Rs 5,000."

- Dipali Kirpalani

Fine figures

Rs 3,10,70,000
Total amount of fines levied so far

9,35,153
Total no. of visits by the blue squad in various shops and markets

443
Total no. of inspection reports filed

57,128kg
Total amount of plastic seized

Rs 25,000
Maximum amount of the fine levied under the ban on plastic

BMC says

BMC sources said action has been taken against 100-odd illegal manufacturers and distributors. A civic official said, "Once the recycling of stored plastic takes place, there will be more action. However, activities relating to sale of plastic take place late in the night or very early in the morning, when it is difficult to nab them." BMC commissioner Pravin Pardeshi said, "Continuous action is being taken, but if illegal sales are going on, then the action taken by the blue squad will be revived soon. We'll also focus on shutting down all factories producing single use plastic and plastic bags illegally. It is also important for customers to not ask for plastic and carry cloth bags or other alternatives."

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