India‘s capital city Delhi has placed a ban on plastic bags, which will be effective as of next week, with the hopes that it can help the environment. The ban will prohibit the manufacture and sale of all plastic bags and plastic sheets.
B.M.S Reddy, an engineer working with Delhi’s government, had disclosed that the ban will include shopping bags, garbage bags and all kinds of plastic film and storage packets, including the use of plastic in covers for packaging books, magazines or cards. The only exception will be plastic bags required for medical waste that fall under the Bio-Medical Waste Management and Handling Rules of 1998.
This isn’t the first time Delhi has taken a step in prohibiting the use of plastic in the city. In 2009, Delhi banned plastic shopping bags but officials failed to enforce the ban. A senior government official explained to The Times of India why the prior ban failed: “The 2009 ban did not do too well since the crackdown on violations was poor. Although a number of agencies had been authorized to take action, only the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) carried out raids. With plastic bags proliferating in the city, this action was just not sufficient.”
The environmental benefits of a plastic ban are undeniable: Plastic is non-biodegradable; the chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies and accidentally ingested by wildlife and marine animals; floating plastic breaks down into small pieces and litters the ocean and water; and producing more plastic drains a lot of energy and resources.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told The Hindu: “After considering the adverse effects of plastic carry bags on the environment, we decided to ban them. It has also been observed that plastic bags cause blockage of gutters, drains and sewerage system, thereby resulting in serious environmental and public health-related problems”. Another benefit of the ban is that they protect the thousands of cows that roam the city and accidentally swallow plastic bags while looking for food.
Pollution is a rising problem in India. Earth 911 states:
According to a 2008 report by The World Bank, if an efficient system were in place, roughly 15 percent of India’s waste materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass could be recovered and recycled. If the 35 to 55 percent that is organic waste could also be recovered, that would leave only 30 to 50 percent to be sent to landfills.
And while it is easy to see this step is excellent for the environment (as well as for the cleanliness of the city), skeptics of the ban have been griping that the government should have planned for a viable alternative to plastic bags for shoppers. Many consumers shop at open air markets, purchasing spices and seafood from small vendors who no longer can use plastic as packaging.