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Enforce rules to eliminate single-use carry bags: Centre to states
Being the global host of this year's World Environment Day (June 5) with 'Beat Plastic Pollution' as its theme, the Centre has written to all states and Union Territories (UTs) to undertake a massive campaign against use of single-use plastics and enforce rules to ensure elimination of plastic carry bags of less than 50 microns in thickness.
Though the Centre had banned polythene bags below 50 microns in thickness across the country in 2016, most states have so far failed to enforce it amid resistance from small businesses and vendors. Absence of alternatives has been cited by stakeholders as an obstacle even as environmentalists dismissed it as a lack of will on the part of civic bodies.
Will India, being the host of this year's WED, be able to drive global efforts to beat plastic pollution? Environment secretary C K Mishra said, "India will use this occasion to spread the message of reducing plastic pollution and like to assume the role of global leader on this. We would like to appeal to every citizen to help us do that."
Mishra told TOI that environment minister Harsh Vardhan wrote to all states and UTs and sensitised them towards India's efforts to tackle the menace of plastic pollution .
Many states are learnt to have prepared action plans for this. Since focus of the WED will be on actions against single-use plastics, it is expected that many corporate houses will come out with their respective plans to completely ban such plastics which include bags, straws and water bottles among others.
Asked about the reason behind non-enforcement of ban on plastic carry bags, associate director of environmental NGO Toxics Link Satish Sinha said, "States do not have the mechanism to do that. There is no significant alternative and it poses practical problems on the ground when people too are apathetic towards it."
Advocating a phase-down approach for single-use plastics before going for its phase-out, Sinha said, "It has to be stopped first at the manufacturers' level. Besides, we have to improve recycling and find out ways to reduce use of toxic material in plastic."
As many as 18 states and UTs including Delhi, Chandigarh, Sikkim, Himachal pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh have either completely or partially banned use of plastic carry bags. However, enforcement continues to be a problem.
The latest missive from the environment ministry to states is in addition to its recent direction to make protected areas free from plastic. Though West Bengal and Odisha have already made their protected areas plastic free, Uttarakhand has started a drive to achieve this goal ahead of June 5. Sikkim is even considering banning plastic bottles.