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Alternatives to single-use plastics scarce in West Bengal, say green crusaders

75-micron plastic carry bags are available in Kolkata markets without government certification endorsement

PTI | Published 21.07.22, 11:21 AM
For representational purposes

For representational purposes

File photograph

Environmentalists in Kolkata have said West Bengal lacked plans to find viable alternatives to single-use plastics, the use of which has been banned since July 1.

Users too are not aware of the right type of carry bags to be used after the ban, they said.

Environmentalist S.M. Ghosh said:“75-micron plastic carry bags are available in Kolkata markets without government certification endorsement.”

“There should be immediate start of the process of setting up research and development units of the central and state governments to find out low cost, good quality alternative products like carry bags, plates, spoons, which can then be manufactured at the SME level,” said Subhas Dutta, another leading green crusader. 

Dutta said the alacrity shown by the Centre and state in enforcing the ban is commendable but there appears a lack of planning to find viable alternatives to the banned single-use plastics.

He added that any suitable alternative is costlier for both the sellers and buyers. “So far, I have seen there is a noticeable change in the attitude of the people and both state and central governments. But there seems to be a little confusion about any direction regarding the use of low cost, viable and easily available alternatives to the banned products,” Dutta, a green crusader, who was instrumental in shifting the Kolkata Book Fair from the Maidan, considered the lungs of the city, to a less congested venue in Salt Lake with the intervention of Calcutta High Court in the early-2000s, told PTI. 

‘Save Rabindra Sarobar’ campaigner and green activist Somendra Mohan Ghosh said the ban on single-use plastic has not yet been implemented properly in the city because of various factors. “While Kolkata Municipal Corporation, West Bengal Pollution Control Board and the state environment department are not imposing fines on consumers and sellers violating the ban, only 40 per cent of the citizens are interested in eradicating the pollution by single-use plastics,” he said. 

Ghosh said that most citizens are ignoring the bad effects of plastic pollution like water pollution and waterlogging due to the city’s choked drainage line.

Soil degradation, pollution of canal, river and ocean waters by the flowing of micro plastic elements are among the bad effects of plastic pollution.

He said there is shortage of alternative materials to replace single-use plastics and consumer product manufacturers are not serious about changing the existing plastic packaging.

“Seventy-five-micron plastic carry bags are available in the market without government certification endorsement and users are not aware about the right type of carry bags. Cellophane papers on cigarettes packs are not yet banned. Gutkha foil packets are also in the market. Even plastic straws for soft drinks are not completely banned,” he said. 

A West Bengal Pollution Control Board official said the watchdog is keeping vigil on market places since July 1 so that single-use plastics are not used any more and the drive has been successful so far.

“The pollution control board coordinates with the police and Kolkata Municipal Corporation as we cannot take action on our own. Our Paribesh App can be used by the public if they come across any single instance of violation,” the official said.

People are being encouraged to use paper bags in markets and shops and plastics above 75 microns, he said. To the question about encouraging alternatives to banned plastics, the official said it is not in the domain of the WBPCB. 

Last updated on 21.07.22, 11:21 AM
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