A few days ago, I asked a friend from Maharashtra whether the plastic ban was still being enforced. She grinned widely before saying, “YES!”
A few months ago, India hosted the 2018 World Environment Day, with the theme of ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. The idea was to drastically cut down on single-use plastic. One of the initiatives was from the government of Maharashtra. It banned the production, use, storage, distribution, or sale of many plastic and petroleum-derived products.
It also authorised a wide range of public officials to extract heavy fines for violating the rule. So if you are travelling to Maharashtra, here is what you should know.
1. Single use plastics of all kinds are banned – this includes not just the unmarked plastic bags that your grocer uses, but also non-woven polypropylene bags given by companies like Grofers and Subway. If you eat street food, the vendor cannot serve you in plastic, polystyrene cups or dishes, nor give you a plastic spoon. If you are worried about the hygiene of reusable dishes, carry a plate and spoon. Or just a bottle of water so you can give the vendor’s dishes an extra rinse.
2. PET bottles have a specific resale value – So, if you want to buy a carbonated drink, it will still be in a PET bottle. However, the bottle will now have a resale value printed on it. If you collect them, you can drop them off and claim your refund (or pass the refund on to your domestic helpers).
3. Plastic used at the manufacturing stage is exempt – This means that if you buy a 5 kg bag of atta, it will still come in plastic packaging. Medicine packets are also exempt. The other major exemption is plastic meant for handling solid waste. Until there is large-scale awareness about segregating waste, this will ensure safety and health for municipal workers.
4.The penalty is stiff – If you are seen using any of the banned products (as a manufacturer, vendor, consumer or organisation), the first offence carries a fine of 5000 rupees. The second offence costs 10,000 rupees and a third offence can lead to a fine of 25,000 rupees as well as jail term. Each time a fine is extracted, the identity of the offender is noted – through driving license, PAN card or Aadhar.
How can you prepare for this?
1. Arm yourself with cloth bags – pack a few into your handbag, backpack, car dashboard, or scooter storage. Better yet, get a sturdy one from a local handloom store and carry it everywhere you go.
2. Get a beautiful stainless steel water bottle (or two) – If you are going to be outdoors the whole day, use one for water and the second for deliciously cool (or warm) drinks. Many water bottles are now insulated and can maintain the temperature of the liquid for at least a few hours. Imagine how wonderful it can be to drink cold mosambi juice in the middle of a hot and sweaty train ride, or sip hot masala tea when the winds outside are cold. And have you noticed that many backpacks have to two side pouches for bottles? Use them!
3. Carry personal cutlery – A small cloth pouch with a fork and a spoon occupies less space in a backpack than three disposable pens. This isn’t new or weird either. In most parts of southeast and east Asia, people carry a pair of chopsticks with them. Many of them are wonderfully personalized.
But most importantly, think of it as your civic duty to your city, your land. This is a battle that is first fought in the mind, in breaking old habits and patterns of behaviour. Embrace the change and see the act of packing a lunch box, or carrying a water bottle as a wonderful, simple and elegant way of living a mindful life.