The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Green arsenal to battle plastic bags

In an attempt to rid the city of plastic, the Pollution Control Board (PCB) has taken up a programme to introduce and popularise carry-bags of jute, paper and cloth. The PCB has decided to organise training camps to provide knowhow in producing jute and paper bags to selected NGOs and young entrepreneurs. The first such camp will be held in the city from November 22, with nearly 100 participants.

The PCB, in association with the police, has also taken up an action plan to stop illegal production of recycled plastic bags. Board chairman Hirak Ghosh explained that the NGOs, once trained, will, in turn, hold camps to train others. “The programme is aimed at making Calcutta a plastic-free city. Though a policy decision has been taken to impose a ban on the use of plastic carry-bags across the city, it will take time to implement the ban. We have to offer plenty of alternative carry-bags in the market. Once we ensure the availability of the alternatives, we will implement the ban,’’ Ghosh said.

Young entrepreneurs could set up small units for manufacturing carry-bags after practical training from the PCB. “We will provide all assistance, including bank loans, to set up the business. Each unit will require an investment of a maximum of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000,’’ Ghosh said.

Nationalised banks have agreed to offer loans to unemployed youths, provided the PCB stands guarantor. “We have met traders and shopkeepers at various city markets and urged them to opt for jute or paper bags against plastic carry-bags. We also plan to organise awareness camps for both buyers and sellers,’’ the PCB chairman said.

According to the PCB scientists, nearly 100 tonnes of plastic carry-bags are used in the city and most of them are recycled. That is not only a health hazard and a prime cause of pollution, it also creates a serious problem in sewerage and drainage system.

Despite a ban on making and using recycled plastic bags, PCB officials said some units were still manufacturing the bags illegally. “We have conducted raids and sealed six such units in recent times. We know that a number of units are still in operation and have drawn up an action plan to shut them,’’ officials said.

Secretary of Ultadanga Byabsayee Samity Samir Ghosh said members of his association did not favour plastic bags, but customers insisted on them. “Often, they leave if they find we are not delivering the goods in plastic bags. So, to avoid losing custom, we have to use plastic bags. If an alternative is available, traders will use it,’’ he said.

Dum Dum Bazaar Samity spokesman Raghab Roy said it had become a public habit to ask for carry-bags. “We are ready to change from plastic, but there has to be an alternative,’’ he added.

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