BANGALORE: Everyone in the city is used to carrying their own bags when they go grocery shopping or paying extra for plastic bags, since the notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ came into force in February, last year. But, has the move really worked? City Express undertook a reality check , to see if the sale of plastic bags has come down since the move.
We spoke to a couple of retail shops in the city. “The sale of plastic bags has reduced considerably. Customers have started carrying their own bags now.” said a salesman at Smart Shop on Magadi Road.
Voicing the same opinion, the manager at MK Retail said, “The sale of plastic bags has easily come down by 50 per cent. If customers forget to carry their own bags, they sometimes end up carrying the groceries in hand.”
“The influx of new bags into the market has seen a downward trend. There has been no systematic study statistically, to see an actual fall in the sale of plastic bags. But, I can tell from my observation that the move to charge for plastic has certainly been a deterrent to the public,” observed former Chairman of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), Sadashivaiah adding that there is still a need to intensify the campaign by involving people and resident associations, in particular.
According to former chairman of Karnataka State Plastic Association, Chandra Mohan, small shops are not implementing the notification for fear of losing their customers. “They are giving away plastic bags less than 40 microns free of cost . Hence, the customers prefer to go to that particular shop. This defeats the entire purpose,” he rued.
When we asked Chandra Mohan if there has been a fall in the sale of plastic bags, he said, “Yes, the sale has come down from 5,00,000 to 50-60,000 in a particular month. That is a big change. And retail shops are saving money this way, as the money they have spent on plastic bags is now being paid back by the customers,” he added.
Chandra Mohan also suggested customers to buy plastic bags exceeding 40 microns, as they can be used to carry up to 20-25 kilograms and can also be reused atleast five to six times.
Not only in India, but similar moves worked well in other countries, as well.
According to Sadashivaiah, “A statewide levy on plastic bags in California, USA, last year saw a downward trend in usage by the customers.”
According to a report by The Guardian dated May 2009, “Since launching a 5 pence charge for food bags last May as part of its Plan A scheme to reduce waste, Marks & Spencers says the number of bags taken to cart posh ready meals home has fallen by 80 per cent from 460 million bags a year to 80 milion.”
Though the campaign against using plastic bags has a long way to go, many feel that there is a need for higher public participation in such issues, stronger implementation by authorities concerned and increase in awareness towards environmental issues among the public.