Karnataka Plastic Ban: The Progress & Where We Are Now?
In 2015, the Karnataka state government banned the use of all plastics below a thickness of forty microns. A year later, in March 2016, the government issued a notification banning the use of all plastic and thermocol products, regardless of their thickness. The notification also banned manufacturers from producing, storing, supplying and transporting plastic. However, the notification allowed for three exemptions. It allowed plastic to be used to package milk and milk products, to be used in nurseries and horticulture, and to be used for export purposes in Special Economic Zones.
It has been three years since the ban on all plastics has been issued. How far has this ban been enforced and carried out? And what impact has it had on the production and circulation of plastic in the state?
Soon after the plastic ban was declared, authorities conducted multiple raids to seize plastic materials, especially targeting bulk producers and vendors. However, the ban was not properly implemented. The manufacture and use of plastic bags continued to be rampant, right from the vendor, up till the individual consumer. The challenge of enforcement was further exacerbated by collusion between officials and the garbage mafia.
Cut to 2018
In 2018, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) announced that they would be enforcing the ban more strictly, with the help of new technology. Officials who were in charge of implementation were given hand-held devices that could capture the picture and location of any individuals using plastic bags. In place of the manual receipts that were being issued up until then, the machine would also generate a spot penalty receipt for those caught using plastic.
On 31st August 2018, workers and owners of plastics units, united under the name of the Karnataka State Plastic Association, protested against the plastic ban, claiming that it supported only large multinational corporations. Their argument is that while the ban has reduced the use of single-use plastics, it has left multi-layered plastics almost untouched.
Statistics support their claim, as, after the ban, 1,000 units of single-use plastics have been closed down, resulting in a loss of more than 350 crore rupees to the industry. Waste management centers confirm that the amount of single used plastics coming into dry waste collection centers has reduced tenfold. However, the circulation of chips and biscuit packets, shampoo sachets, PET bottles, carbonated drink bottles, and juice cartons have not been affected at all.
It is unfair to maintain, as many critics claim, that the ban has had no impact at all on plastic production and use in Karnataka. It has been quite effective in cutting down the manufacture and circulation of single-use plastics in the state.
However, what remains unaffected is the amount of multi-layered plastics that are in circulation. These are a serious problem to the environment as they cannot be recycled and must be disposed of through incineration. It is now imperative that, just as the ban has been implemented in the case of single-use plastics, it must be strictly enforced and carried out with regard to multi-layered plastics as well.