COIMBATORE: Giving impetus to the Meendum Manjapai (return of cloth bag) campaign, the State government will soon introduce bags made of biodegradable material as alternative to banned plastic items.
Principal Secretary (Environment) Supriya Sahu, told The New Indian Express that the next phase of the campaign will be raising awareness about alternative materials such as jute and banana fibre among youth and wean them away from plastics.
"The government is planning to introduce items like sling bags and backpacks made of alternative materials. The bags would be vibrant and appeal to youth," Sahu said adding that the plan is in the nascent stage.
"Many of the banned single-use plastic items are still in use and alternative products have not yet come into mass public use. There are 14 alternatives and they should be brought to people's attention. A few alternative and eco-friendly products were displayed during the launch of the Meendum Manjapai campaign. Self-help groups in all districts will be roped into the campaign," Supriya Sahu added.
In 2019, the State government banned 14 items, including single-use plastic bags and polythene covers. The environment department issued orders directing officers to conduct surprise checks at commercial establishments to ensure the ban is followed in toto . However, the ban did not yield results due to lack of implementation and availability of alternatives.
Officials admit that it is difficult to completely restrict use of banned plastic products due to shortage of alternatives. "It is not easy to ban single-use plastic without introducing the alternatives. The alternative should be easily available and affordable as well. We are working to identify products to replace plastic items. Cloth bag (Manjapai) is one of them and others will be identified at the earliest," said a senior official from Tamil Nadu Pollution control board.
The process to identify the manufacturers of alternative products and availability of raw materials has begun in all districts through the respective district administrations, the official added.
List of alternatives proposed by TNPCB
Alternatives listed by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) include banana leaf/fibre, silver foil paper, paper roll dry lotus leaves, glass/ metal containers, wooden/pulp material, paper straw, jute, cloth, porcelain and terracotta.