A blanket ban on single-use plastic in Kerala, a landmark step in the state’s waste generation mechanism, will come into effect at midnight on January 1, 2020. The decision was taken by the ruling CPM-led LDF government in November, keeping in mind the disastrous health and environmental effects of single-use plastic in the state.
Through the ban’s enforcement, the production, sale and storage of single-use plastic cups, bottles and carry-bags will come to a complete halt in the state in the new year. Those violating the government decision will be charged under strict provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
The decision to enforce the ban is in line with the recommendations put forward by the expert technical committee formed to evaluate the usage of plastic. Citing similar bans in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the committee said the step had resulted in over 70 per cent fall in the usage of plastic.
Items that would fall under the ban include single-use plastic carry bags, sheets, plates, cups, spoons, stirrers, straws, thermocol/styrofoam plates, bags, bowls, non-woven bags, flags, non-branded juice packets, water sachets, water bottles less than 100 ml, garbage bags and flex banners.
Items that have been kept outside the purview of the ban include cling film used for wrapping vegetables and food items, plastic items kept for export, those used in healthcare and carry bags used for measuring pulses, meat and fish.
Under the ‘extended producer responsibility’ plan, enterprises like Milma, Kerala Water Authority and Bevco are responsible for taking back their plastic utensils from the public in exchange for money. Companies which produce environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic will be encouraged by the government. Industrial parks have been directed to set aside five per cent of their land for the treatment of waste.
To set up alternative mechanisms to plastic, Kudumbashree, the self-help group network of lakhs of women in the state, is manufacturing cloth bags on a massive scale, ranging from Rs 5 to Rs 50 and helping distribute it across homes.
A section of traders in the state are miffed with the plastic ban as they fear business dwindling due to the decision. They have announced a shutdown of shops beginning
The government, however, has been steadfast in its decision, warning that violators would be charged with heavy fines. Manufacturers, wholesalers and small-time retailers violating the ban would be fined with Rs 10,000. Second-time offenders would be fined Rs 25,000. If laws are violated again by such persons, they would be fined Rs 50,000 and their licenses cancelled. Secretaries of municipalities, corporations, block panchayats and village panchayats can enforce the rules, apart from officials of the pollution control board, district collectors and district magistrates.