New Delhi Plastic Bag Ban Breaks Down

Eighteen months after being banned in Delhi, plastic bags are back… not that they ever really went away.

The government warned in January last year, that anyone caught using plastic shopping bags would face a fine and, in extreme cases, a prison sentence. But in this teeming city of 16 million people, enforcing the ban has simply proved too difficult.

“The ban is obviously good and people should adhere to it, but sometimes when you get into the mood of buying things, just at the spur of the moment, then if you don’t have a bag, then you need a plastic bag – it’s just useful.”

“If you really want to ban plastic, get an alternative for that. People will stop using it.”

For environmentalists, alternatives have been difficult to find.  Plastic bags are well known as an ecological scourge. They don’t decompose. They clog rivers and kill cattle and birds that ingest them. The ban’s failure in Delhi is a source of great frustration for campaigners like Bharati Chaturvedi.

[Bharati Chaturvedi, Environmentalist]:
“Our plastic ban in Delhi was based on the notion of beating and policing. Such a ban – it does not work. If you compare it with other kinds of bans in other parts of the world, what we found is that they have not been banned, there have been taxes. The Irish put a very small tax, Washington, DC put a small tax but the plastic bag usage just collapsed after that.”

The movement toward taxing plastic bags has not yet gained a foothold in India despite a booming economy which has spurred a steady increase in their use. The government wants shopkeepers to use jute or paper bags but traders say nothing is as efficient as plastic.

[Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General, Confederation of All India Traders]:
“It is the cheapest packaging material available in the country. [It is] Very easily available, very easy to handle and very easy to store. So these are the four characteristics for plastic to become so prevalent – not only among the shopkeepers but also among the consumers. If the government is able to make available the alternate material, I think we are definitely here to abide by the law.”

So far however, the law has had no impact in Delhi where for now environmental concerns take second place to commerce and convenience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: