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Suddenly soft on plastic
- Focus shifts from rigid curbs to proper waste management at source

The billboards are being pulled down and the slogan 'say no to plastic' has been silenced. After painting plastic as the villain of the environmental-pollution piece, the government has suddenly admitted to the failure of its anti-plastic campaign and decided to tone it down.

'As long as it (plastic) is going to be produced, people will use it and so, asking them to say no to plastic does not help. Our focus will be proper waste management at source,' urban development secretary K.S. Rajendra Kumar told Metro.

Sudip Banerjee, chairman, state pollution control board, reacted to the turn of events: 'There has never been a ban on the use of plastic, but on carry bags of a particular type. There is also a blanket ban on carry bags at some key sites in the state. There is no question of these curbs being relaxed.'

The question of enforcement vexes both the authorities and the green lobby. A few months ago, the government had decided to slap a severe restriction on use of plastic products in the city and there was talk of a law being drafted.

Nothing has moved on that front and now comes the talk of going soft. Asish Ghosh, director of the Centre for Environment and Development, said: 'Despite government efforts, we still see people using plastic bags below 20 microns in some areas. The use of recycled bags (black and coloured) has decreased, but it could all make a comeback (if the government relaxes its stand).'

Institute of Public Health Engineers president K.J. Nath took exception to the shift in stance. 'The whole idea of curbing the menace of plastic pollution will get diluted as a result of this outlook,' he warned.

'One may talk about waste management, but it is not possible to control random disposal of plastic in the city,' added Sisir Neogi, secretary general of the institute.

The Indian Plastic Federation, of course, welcomed the development. 'The whole campaign against plastic was becoming misleading, as if implying that every plastic product manufactured was bad and unhealthy. Thankfully, the government has realised that it is better to recycle plastic,' said federation secretary K.K. Seksaria.

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