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Plastic: Back to square one

IFP Editorial: As there are no other viable alternatives, vendors and shopkeepers have started using single-use plastic bags, although they always keep a lookout for the police or other enforcers of the ban. Why is it so?  The state did not have a sound and practical strategy for implementing the plastic ban.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 8 Sept 2022, 3:45 am

(PHOTO: IFP)
(PHOTO: IFP)

It has been more than two months since the government announced a ban on single-use plastics. The first weeks of the ban saw vendors and shopkeepers resorting to other carry bags while shoppers bring their own bags to the market or roadside stalls or vendors.

Police used to conduct surprise checks in the shops and violators were fined. But now, it is back to square one. As there are no other viable alternatives, vendors and shopkeepers have started using single-use plastic bags, although they always keep a lookout for the police or other enforcers of the ban. Why is it so?  The state did not have a sound and practical strategy for implementing the plastic ban. How does one stop using something which had been there for decades?

ALSO READ: Efforts on to turn ITS first plastic free zone institution in Tamenglong

People had become accustomed to plastic so much that life without plastic became unthinkable to many and every other day, imaginative people are coming up with new innovative packaging based on plastic and a number of small scale industries revolve around it. The right strategy would have been a gradual process where new packaging carry bags are introduced slowly along with awareness.

The nodal implementing agency Manipur Pollution Control Board (MPCB) is still in the dark on how to implement it. They are doing now what they should have done before announcing the ban. As we said before, it is a clear case of the ban mentality prevalent in our state. If someone thinks something is against public interest, banning it seems to be the solution. And mind you, it is not only the CSOs or other bodies who are plagued with the ‘ban solution’ on everything one does not like.

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The government seems to be slowly following in their footsteps. This is simply unthinkable. It is not only the case of lack of strategy for implementation of the policy, but there is also a complete absence of alternatives to the use of plastics in everyday life. People with imagination have a tendency of coming up with solutions or alternatives and Manipur does not lack such imaginative young persons. When such ideas come up, it could be provided a support structure.

ALSO READ: Imphal entrepreneur aims to fill the gap after ban on single-use plastics

There was a time when people used to bring their own carry-bags to the market and they stuff it with whatever items they had purchased while the shops used paper-bags (Chekhao) and plain old newspapers or old exercise books to wrap the items.

It was mostly non-Manipuris or women of small means who made the Chekhao and they used to roam around the Leikais looking to purchase old books, exercise books and newspapers and they preferred English newspapers from outside the state as the newsprint was of better quality. Sometimes, they even use the hardcover of exercise books by cutting it into small pieces to strengthen the bottom part of the Chekhao. It is not just nostalgia.

But, it was the way of our world before the coming of plastic into our lives. Before bottled water came into the scene, Khujai and later on steel glasses rented out by Leikai Marups were used for drinking water during Usops and they are now lying unused in marup godowns. They are being replaced by bottled water and disposable plastic glasses.

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ALSO READ: Ban on Single-Use Plastics: Students body urges Manipur government to act tough

The problem started with regard to dumping of these single-use plastic wrappers, glasses, bottles, spoons and forks, molded plastic containers used in working lunches or eatables during swasti puja and marriage ceremonies. These disposable items started appearing in garbage collection without any segregation and more dangerously in our drains.

So, most of the drains in urban areas are clogged with plastic waste leading to flash floods during the rainy season while most parts of such non-degradable plastic waste flows down in our rivers and ultimately in the lakes creating a severe environmental problem. The plastic problem is not only about our state and the country, but a major issue the world over and the oceans are littered with plastic waste. Many countries have already started reverting to biodegradable items for everyday use while India began with banning it from July 1. 

EDITORIAL

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First published:

Tags:

plastic bansingle use plastic bagspolythene bagspaper bags

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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