KOCHI: Come September 1, Kochi Corporation’s decision to ban plastic carry bags at malls and supermarkets will come into force. Though authorities have tried to effect similar bans in the city since 2016 with a lackadaisical response, the corporation seems resolute this time around to ensure proper implementation of the decree.
The restraint on the use of plastic bags in place now only prohibits bags that are less than 50 microns in thickness but the lastest order imposes a blanket ban on all plastic carry bags within city limits. “For a stringent execution of the order, the Corporation is planning to amend the existing bylaw by including the new clause of an overall ban. It has already been discussed with the council,” said V P Chandran, member of the standing Health Committee.
The decision comes in the wake of the upcoming festive season which typically sees a surge in the shopping among Kochi residents. According to officials, Kochiites generated 215 metric tonnes of non-biodegradable waste in the past five months alone, while a raid conducted by Health Committee last month on Broadway unearthed 1.5 metric tonnes of plastic trash.
“A task force comprising of health inspectors and officers is being formed to conduct regular checks at major supermarkets and shopping hubs. Any establishment in violation will be fined with a penalty of Rs 5,000 for a first-time offence. Repeat offenders will be forced to pay up to Rs 25,000,” added Chandran.
While supermarkets already deploying jute or cloth bags welcome the announcement, other stores think that the order will fail to take off like previous instances. “We keep hearing about these bans once in a while but nothing major happens. We have not received any notice or circular regarding this so we will continue to use plastic carry bags. The ones we have are above 51 microns so they are not entirely harmful to the environment,” said an employee at a grocery mart near Changampuzha Park.
Major retailers who have adopted eco-friendly carriers over the years are charging customers for issuing bags, the cost of which ranges anywhere between Rs 3 to 10. “We are obligated to charge customers to maintain our profit margins. Bio-degradable carry bags are expensive and the burden has to be levied on the buyer. Some customers complain about having to pay for bags but we are charging only the price that we pay to the vendor,” said Anuradha R, co-owner of Akshaya Supermarket near Edapally which issues jute bags.
She added that the store has seen a comparable reduction in people demanding for bags over the last few years. “Many of our regular customers now get their carriers. Perhaps around 35 per cent purchase them. We procure close to 15,000 bags every two months.”Abhilash Surendran, head of operations at Bismi Hypermarket notes that the mega retail chain decision to use non-woven bags from the very beginning has bolstered the company’s goodwill. “Many of our customers buy bags from us as they are well made and reusable.”
According to officials, Kochiites generated 215 metric tonnes of non-biodegradable waste in the past five months alone, while a raid conducted by Health Committee last month on Broadway unearthed 1.5 metric tonnes of plastic trash.