Thursday, July 15, 2010


Amidst the controversial debate centering around banning plastics for use as grocery shop bags and other type of carry bags, no country seems to have been able to take a firm decision though there are many regional bodies in some countries enforcing such a ban. In India states like Kerala have already made it illegal to use plastic bags with thickness 20 microns or less for shopping but finds it difficult to enforce the ban due to logistical reasons. Though the basis for such affirmative action is sound in that plastic bags do pose an environmental hazard as it takes more than 800 years for them to be degraded when discarded, "policing" of the law is fraught with many practical difficulties. Catching the defaulters may be easy but to prosecute them in the already cluttered judicial system is next to impossible. Probably only an incentive system may work as being attempted in many countries and it may take a long time to sufficiently sensitize the public regarding the dangers posed by plastic bags. The recent action in California in banning use of plastics is also a move unlikely to work as the government there is hardly in a position to force the citizens to abide by the new law.

"Paper or plastic? Soon the answer may be neither. California would become the first state to ban grocery, liquor and drug stores from providing free paper or plastic bags under legislation pushed by Democrats and supported by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The goal is to fight litter and lighten the load on landfills by getting shoppers to use reusable fabric bags. Those who don't could buy paper bags for a nickel or more. "I think the proliferation of plastic bags is unnecessary, and it's a pollutant, an urban tumbleweed," Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, said of the lightweight bags that can litter yards and clog waterways. Californians use about 19 billion plastic bags per year, about 552 bags apiece, according to a legislative committee analysis of Brownley's proposal, Assembly Bill 1998. Tim Shestek of the American Chemistry Council said the plastic bag industry would rather pay to bolster recycling programs than ban plastic bags. He said that with California's economy struggling, it makes no sense to jeopardize about 500 plastic-bag manufacturing jobs and to promote paper bags that produce more greenhouse gas during their life cycle than plastic bags do. "We frankly think this is a dangerous precedent for the state to be setting," Shestek said. The crackdown on disposable bags would cost an estimated $1.5 million the first year and $1 million annually to launch, administer and enforce, payable from fees on makers of reusable bags".

California is estimated to be using annually 19 billion bags, about 552 bags per capita and a provision in the law also makes it mandatory for the shops to provide paper bags made from recycled paper to those not bringing along multi use bags. Also the law gives adequate time to implemet the measures as it will take effect only in January 2012 for retailers and 2015 for small shops, pharmacies and others. Similar laws are being enacted in many states in the country, more or less on similar lines.


No comments: