Another bid to ban single-use plastics

City corporation plans to enforce ban on plastic and other disposable items from Jan 15.
People enjoying tea in disposible cups in front of a shop near the Secretariat on Tuesday | B P Deepu
People enjoying tea in disposible cups in front of a shop near the Secretariat on Tuesday | B P Deepu

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After several failed attempts in the past, Thiruvananthapuram corporation is taking steps to implement a ban on single-use plastics and other disposable items which will come into effect from January 15. As an initial step, the corporation has already started creating awareness against the use of single-use plastic items especially by hotels and restaurants. However, street vendors and restaurant owners are in a fix as customers prefer to be served in disposable plates, cups and containers due to the prevailing pandemic situation.

Encouraging the use of other environment-friendly alternatives, the city corporation recently held a three-day exhibition at Putharikandam Maidan in the capital city. Speaking about the implementation of the plastic ban, the corporation officials highlighted that although single-use plastic has been banned several times, it made a reappearance, especially due to the pandemic, and is being extensively used now.

“Last year, the Union environment ministry had notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 and increased the permissible thickness of the plastic bags from 50 microns to 75 which came into effect from September 2021. However, it couldn’t be strictly enforced due to the Covid situation,” said grade 1 health inspector Biju B P of the city corporation.

Hence, a meeting was called by the corporation with various stakeholders such as street vendors’ association, hotel and restaurant association and textiles before implementing the plastic ban.

“During the meeting, the hotel owners’ and street vendors’ associations raised concerns about the lack of alternatives to plastic. As a result, an expo featuring plastic alternatives was held so that they could use these options. Even the use of steel boxes was encouraged to give parcels to the customers. Hence, the next step is to implement the ban on single-use plastics and disposable items from January 15. For this, an action plan has already been prepared. Similarly, from December this year, the permissible thickness of plastic bags will be increased to 120 microns,” said the health inspector.

Haritha Keralam Mission district coordinator Humayoon D said, “Although the single-use plastic has been banned for a long time, it is being widely used due to the pandemic situation. Since customers also prefer to be served in disposable cups and plates, the plastic ban should be implemented once the alternatives are made available. The excessive use of plastic carry bags is also leading to dumping of huge amount of plastic in water bodies, posing a threat to human health and environment.”

Meanwhile, the street vendors and hotel owners have raised concerns about the practicality of implementing the ban on disposables in the pandemic times. Praveen Vamadean, who has been running a tea shop near the Shankhumukham beach for the past 20 years, said, “We have been instructed by the corporation officials to switch to other alternatives instead of disposable cups and plates for serving the customers as they plan to ban the use of disposables from this month. But, we are not sure if it will be practical in a Covid situation when customers are still reluctant to use glass and steel.”

Akbar Ali, owner of Monte Nero restaurant at Kesavadasapuram, said, “We are ready to follow the instructions of the corporation and switch to other plastic alternatives while serving the customers or parcelling. We have been regularly sanitising the hotel and taking care and washing and heating the plates to kill the germs. However, it is not possible in the case of street vendors.”

Members of the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA) point out the huge cost in switching to plastic alternatives such as cloth bags and other eco-friendly materials used for packing food items. B Vijayakumar, KHRA Thiruvananthapuram district secretary, said, “We welcome the decision of the city corporation. However, we don’t know how practical it is to ban the use of disposables when the Covid situation remains grave.”

Ban on plastic

On January 1, 2020, Kerala’s ruling LDF government had decided to enforce a state-wide ban on single-use plastic in the wake of its extreme environmental and health effects. Violators were to be fined under Environment Protection Act, 1986.

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