The Delhi Government has enforced a complete ban on plastic bags. Few months back, When I saw people carrying huge brown bags, I could not help a smile. The fact that the Government has succeeded in implementing a law flashed a ray of hope. But it is fading away. Few days back, I came across Plastic Bags issued by Delhi University.
Why is it difficult to replace Plastic? But a question more basic to ask is the problem with Plastic Bags. Plastic Bags are non biodegradable. Unlike Paper, it does not dissolve in water and chokes gutters. If burned, it pollutes the air with toxic fumes. It is prepared using the scarce and non-renewable resource of Petroleum. It is difficult and costly to recycle them. Cows choke to death when they try to eat food stuffed in polythene bags. Plastic Bags contain harmful toxic metals like chromium and copper which can cause diseases like cancer, malfunctioning of kidneys, limbs etc.
Absence of Perfect Substitutes makes it difficult to replace Plastic Bags. Paper Bags are not strong enough. They cannot hold liquids. Steel Containers pose an expensive alternative. Plastic Containers are not popular among the small vendors. Saying No to Plastic Bags is not workable.
The alternatives should be used to the extent possible. But the focus should be on finding a solution to the Plastic problem. MCD provides two dustbins – Green and Blue. While Green accommodates biodegradable waste, Blue is for non-biodegradable waste such as Plastic. These colour coded bins should be widespread. Plastic Bags should be disposed in the Blue Bin. Awareness about the same should also be propagated. Plastic can be recycled. Centre for Environment Education was awarded the ‘Plasticon 2005’ for innovation in Recycling Technology. It invented Polyloom. The Polyloom is a plastic weaving handloom that can recycle plastic bags(Polythene Bags). Like the Kabad shops, there should also be collection points for plastic bags. A minimal amount can be paid to encourage people. Polythene Bags should not be free of cost. This would discourage their use. People would be forced to reuse them or find alternatives. The cost of plastic containers should be reduced so that small vendors prefer them over polythene bags. Plastic Bags cannot disappear overnight. A change is always a process. But the Bags of pollution will have to and will go.