As I wait for the signal to turn from red to green, a woman walks up to me and say, “Please buy garbage bags, throwing away trash will be easy for you, since the government has banned plastic bags”.
On 23rd June, the Maharashtra government banned plastic, citing harm done to the environment and animals, across the whole state. The government enforced the ban with immediate effect and the person who violates the law will be fined from 5,000 to 10,000 for the first time and second time offense and the third time offender will be charged 25,000 as well as 3 months of imprisonment.
Plastic is bad. Period. Everyone knows how damaging it is to the environment. The plastic takes more the 500 years to decompose. Animals die a horrible death after eating them; the marine life is suffering terribly due to plastic being dumped in oceans. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Movement) campaign aims to achieve the vision of a ‘Clean India’ by 2nd October 2019. The streets are littered with plastic bags, the wild animals continue to feast upon them because most of the garbage is thrown away food, resulting in the death of the animals as well as creating pollution while it is being burned down. Maharashtra is the second populous state in India and the government had enough reasons to ban plastic; the state generates 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste every day. Plastic packaging contributes to almost half of all the plastic waste and much of it is thrown away immediately after consumption. Some plastic wastes are collected and processed/recycled, while the remaining plastic goes into drains, streets or is dumped in landfills.
Many vendors, traders, consumers blame the government for implementing the law without any proper implementations and alternatives in place. But, a ban can only succeed if all the stakeholders participate in making our environment safe. One can’t expect the government to do all the work; everyone has to do their own bit to build a safe environment for the generations to come. Until and unless vendors stop giving products in plastic packaging, consumers will not think of adopting other measures. Presently, we live in such a world where there is no room for error. The implementation was right but it wasn’t well thought. People need cheaper alternatives otherwise they will continue to use cheap, single-use plastic. Why? Because it’s easier. After 6 months of the plastic ban in Maharashtra, walk into any rustling vegetable market and ask for 100 grams of garlic and ginger and it will come in colorful see-through plastic. A vendor without hesitation and fear of the law whips out plastic bags and the consumers? They happily purchase it. We don’t think twice about it! Why? Plastic is cheap and yes, it is easily available but at what cost? Are we so willing to destroy our environment for the future generations that we can’t make an extra effort? But this is where one’s conscience comes into play; customers should carry their own bags when they go out to purchase. Many of us have gone to the hills and stood at the echo points. We experience that whenever we throw our sound across the hills, it reverberates and bounces back to us. The same is with our environment, the more we thrown trash and abuse it, and it will bounce back with us with a lot more. Look what happened during the monsoon 2018 in Mumbai. The whole marine drive was filled with 9 tonnes of trash, mostly containing plastic waste which was thrown back and the sea proudly said to us, “No, Thank you, keep your trash with yourself”. Are we so willing to put our future’s future to risk? We have to stop and think about how one act of ours will affect our present as well as future generations to come. Also, the last but not the least, the plastic ban will help the government to collect tonnes of plastic. But the question arises what to do with the plastic? Plastic can be recycled into making of roads, public benches, clothes, accessories, fuel etc. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes the plan to end the use of single-use plastic in India by 2022 and as responsible citizens, we have to do out a bit also!
By – Shivalika Mohan
By Shivalika Mohan