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99% city veggie sellers use plastic bags: Study

Source : The Times of India, New Delhi, 24 December 2014

The blanket ban on plastic bags in the city has proved a dud. A survey by Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, has revealed massive use of plastic carry-bags. It found that the monthly use of plastic bags by about 100 vegetable and fruit vendors was over a tonne in Delhi.

The survey found that vendors were using non-woven plastic bags in bulk, thinking it was not plastic and that vegetable, fruit and meat vendors were the biggest users of plastic carry bags in Delhi. Interestingly, chemists, milk booths and stationary shops use fewer number of plastic bags.

Almost 99% of vegetable and fruit vendors, and 95% of meat and fish vendors contacted during the survey were using plastic bags. The usage was high even among small food joints and dhabas (82%). Out of 834 respondents who were interviewed, 78% of the consumers said they preferred using plastic bags. Even worse, 333 users said they use and throw plastic bags, only 75 said they try to reuse.

In 2008, when the first plastic bag notification was issued, non-woven bags were introduced into the market as an alternative. Non-woven bags were tested and found to have 98.3% polypropylene, which fall under the ambit of the ban. "However, most vendors and customers remain unaware of this fact and believe that non-woven bags are non-plastic," the survey says.

In Chandigarh, 82% vendors and 79% consumers were found to be using plastic bags. Only Sikkim has managed to come up with some interesting alternatives. Their meat and vegetable vendors use newspaper wrappings. But 60% of their plastic waste is burnt causing toxic pollution.

In October 2012, the Delhi government had ordered a blanket ban on the manufacturing, import, sale, storage, usage and transport of all kinds of plastic bags. The ban now includes manufacturing of plastic bags and the use of plastic sheets, films or covers for packaging books, magazines and cards as well.

The notification, which was issued under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, has provisions to impose penalties on the violators with a prison term of up to seven years and/or a fine of Rs 1 lakh. But All India Plastic Industries Association challenged the ban and the case is pending in the Delhi high court. Though there have been no written orders yet, the judge had made an oral observation that there would be no penalization till the case is pending.

Toxics Link recommends use of paper or plastic bags, which can be reused several times.

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