BENGALURU: When a plastic ban was announced in early March, the stiffest resistence came from city’s markets among them KR Market. But slowly, grudgingly, nearly all the market’s shops that used to sell plastics have switched to eco-friendly alternatives.
A casual visitor can see shopboards that read “plastics” but beneath them are lined-up plates and serving containers made of leaves or coconut shells, and earthernware glasses.
Some of these shops have taken down their “plastics” boards and are waiting for new ones.
It is a happy sight, but shopkeepers are grumbling. They say that they are facing a sharp fall in their business. “Most of our customers are not ready to take non-plastic products because they are costlier than plastic,” says Nisar, a shopowner in KR Market.
One set of paper cups costs `300 where as the same number of plastic cups costs `130. A pack of 300 plastic bags costs `100 while one of 90 cloth bags costs `150.
Hayath, who runs a shop on Avenue Road, says that the ban came as a surprise. “We didn’t get time to sell our old stock,” he says, adding that even his customers have not taken to this change. “They are not comfortable holding plates and bowls made up of leaves. We don’t see much sales.”
Shops that cater to small traders are under pressure to sell plastics. Ravikumar at KR Market says, “Many vendors in the market are pushing us to get plastic bags for their business, saying they can’t afford cloth bags... we are helpless.”
Rahim who runs Kebab Magic Restaurant sources bags from KR Market. He says, “Non-plastic bags can’t take much weight. I can’t even give one plate of biriyani in one non-plastic bag, they are also costlier.”
Vasanthakumar who runs a cafe in Kengeri has started serving in plates made of leaves, which are brought from city’s wholesale markets. But customers are worried about its hygiene.
“Now we are using bowls made from leaves to serve ice creams and fruit salads, but many of our customers hesitate to use them because they are worried if they are hygienic or if they will hold.”
But environmental activist Dr Shanthi Tummala says that people should be worried about food served in plastic containers.
“They can cause cancer,” she says.
Plastics sellers in the market say that the change is not so catastrophic. “We used to sell plastic articles, but now sell only non-plastics,” says the manager at Manickam Traders in the market. “Yes, we’re seeing a drop in business... but we can run it.” They source most of their goods from from Odisha and Andra Pradesh.
Dr Shanthi suggests that restaurants provide take-aways only to people who bring containers. “Some restaurants in HSR Layout are trying this and are seeing a good response,” she says.
She also suggests that restaurants rent-out containers by taking a small deposit or tie up with companies that rent-out cutleries.
Individuals, and not just commercial establishments, too can participate. She says that they should use plates made of bio-degradable material for parties.