Plastic ban: What it means for the common man as Maharashtra relaxes ban on packaging

Updated: Jun 29, 2018, 13:05 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

mid-day explains what it means for the common man as state relaxes ban on plastic packaging for retailers and eateries

Plastic ban: What it means for the common man as Maharashtra relaxes ban on packaging
Now, when you buy ice cream, you can take it home in the plastic cup it comes in, but don't put it in a plastic bag. File pic

Less than a week after introducing the plastic ban, the state is beating a hasty retreat on yet another point — retailers and eateries can now use plastic, but for packaging only. Plastic carry bags are still contraband. While this will no doubt bring relief to businesses in the city, here’s what it means for the common man: If you were order to an idli sambar for takeaway, the shopkeeper can once again pack the sambar in a plastic pouch. But you can’t carry your order in a plastic bag; the restaurateur will give you a paper or cloth bag instead. Here’s yet another example — if you want to buy a kg of rice, you can take it home in the plastic packaging without any worry, but if you carry it in a plastic bag, you will be fined.

Hurray for moneybags
Ramdas Kadam, environment minister and Shiv Sena leader, announced the relief on Wednesday. The state will give citizens another reason to cheer by approving a proposal for a buy-back scheme for such plastic packaging. So far, the exemption has only been announced for kirana stores, but the government is going to issue a notification to exempt any kind of packaging plastic at retail level, just like the exemption for manufacturers.

Viren Shah, president of the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, said, “We started using cloth or paper bags immediately, but it was unfair to allow plastic packaging only for manufacturers. After the environment minister saw the effects of the ban, he heard us out.” Despite Minister Kadam claiming that he would rather resign than bow down to any pressure to backtrack on the plastic ban, he folded after the trading community shut down in Pune and threatened a Maharashtra Bandh. The minister asked the retailers to come forward with a buy-back scheme and then agreed to their proposal.

Sources in the BJP claimed that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had anticipated this course of events and had thus chosen to stay away from any kind of credit or criticism. However, it is learnt that the CM had an instrumental role in allowing plastic packaging at retail level.

More relief in store
According to sources, the government is now also considering exempting plastic containers, as the hotel industry has been thrown in chaos because of the ban. Anil Diggikar, environment secretary, said, “We will exempt packaging of all food items, even for the hotel industry. These retail outlets will give some kind of discount and buy back the sold plastic. All that we want is that the plastic is recycled properly, instead of being dumped.” Another plan submitted to the government proposes that cloth retailers be allowed to use plastic packaging, as long as they remove the plastic before handing over the products to the customers.

Rs 15
Money to be returned per kg of plastic packaging

Plastic seized yesterday

Number of shops inspected yesterday

Rs 1.25l
Fine collected yesterday

Buy-back scheme
Citizens will have to store all plastic packaging and then deposit it at retail stores. Retailers have said they are willing to collect plastic irrespective of where it was purchased from. Each kg of material will fetch R15. It is unclear whether shopkeepers will offer this in cash or give customers a discount on purchases. Retailers can then sell the waste to manufacturers or recyclers. They will be required to put up display boards stating that they will buy plastic packaging from patrons.

What’s okay, what’s not
> You can buy a product packed in plastic
> Carrying the same product in a plastic bag will invite fines
> Re-usable plastic items such as tiffin boxes, clothes clips and buckets will not be fined
> Plastic packaging (not carry bags) will have a buy-back scheme
> Same for milk pouches and PET bottles
> Plastic packaging for medical purposes is still allowed
> State is considering allowing plastic containers in eateries

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