Activism Carry bag made out of Newspaper

Published on April 13th, 2012 | by Dr Vandana Prakash

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Delhi Finally Bids Adieu to Plastic Bags: Take Two of Ban

 

Carry bag made out of Newspaper

Carry bag made out of recycled newspaper

Delhi government’s efforts to ban plastic bags have gone through interesting iterations. Less than stellar results from the initial ban in 2009 prompted Delhi, in November 2011, to impose a total ban on not just the use of plastic bags in the capital city, but also on all manufacturing, selling, transporting and storage of plastic bags.

The iterative nature of such public policy process facsinates me. Learning from one round of policy implementation, amendments are made to that improve the next iteration of the design. After an initial love-hate phase, there now seems to be a time of broad acceptance among Delhi’s citizens.

Nearly everyone has found viable alternatives to the banned plastic bag. There are polypropylene reusable bags, paper bags and the bioplastic bags; but the one that I liked the best was a bag at one of the government-emporia: making paper-bags of old newspapers, a drop of glue and two bits of jute string. Unlike the usually professional looking paper-bags, these look truly home-made.

The rare shop-keeper of Shankar Market who still uses plastic bags (using the flimsy excuse of finishing-off the left over stock) is truly an exception in my shopping experience. Undoubtedly, given the enhanced awareness of the average resident against the use of plastic bags, he is certain to be questioned on his negligence of civic duty.

The results are for all to see and enjoy. The litter of plastic bags, ever ready to adorn your ankles with every gust of wind, is now gone, and the drains of New Delhi no longer look clogged with plastic bags. Of course, the polypropylene bags that I now possess are not only guilt-free and reusable many times over, but are also a joy to behold as they come in myriad of colors and designs. The banks of Yamuna that I had once complained were strung with plastic bags , now are clean and, given this time of the spring season, green.

Billboard near Agra promoting non-use of plastic bags

Billboard near Agra promoting non-use of plastic bags

Possibly it is time for the next iteration of this policy. As I drive out of Delhi, beyond suburbs like NOIDA, into the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, the sides of the roads are piled for miles and miles with dirt, grime and plastic bags. I wonder whether the Delhi ban is pushing the plastic bags into the neighboring states. In that case, Delhi must co-devise policies with its neighbors to arrive at further reaching solutions. In any case, Delhi must inspire its neighbors with the success of its plastic bag ban.

 

Picture Credits: Carry Bag made of Newspaper (Courtesy: Jeremy Higgs via Flickr.com under Creative Commons License),

Billboard near Agra promoting non-use of plastic bags (Courtesy: tadfad via Flickr.com under Creative Commons License)




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About the Author

Vandana is an Environmental Policy expert and has written extensively about environmental issues and governance specifically in Asian countries and USA. She holds advanced degrees in Public Administration and Economics. She lives in the bay area and has taught Public Policy and NGO Management. Vandana has also served in Government of India as Class 1 officer.



  • http://www.tipsforrecycling.com Tips For Recycling

    I am amazed that they were able to accomplish a total ban. I can’t even imagine this happening in the U.S. But there is still the debate over paper vs plastic (see http://tipsforrecycling.com/2011/12/28/should-plastic-bags-be-banned/), and the American Chemistry Council points out that plastic bags are fully recyclable. The trouble is getting people to take the time to actually do it. I think the biggest problem with plastic is the resulting litter, which is not only unsightly, but poses a real hazard for wildlife.

    • Dr Vandana Prakash

      Indeed there have been advances in plastic recyclability and degradability. Bioplastics are good step forward. And as you said, besides recyclability, the litter caused by plastic bags can be hazardous in more ways. Also you correctly point out, that it is about changing our habbits to better recycle. And it did take Delhi multiple iterations to get to the current state. It has become extremely rare but some retailers continue to use plastic bags despite ban and hefty fines.

  • Brett Gustafson

    It is a matter of time before we ban plastic bags here too. Thanks to India for paving the way.

    • http://www.tipsforrecycling.com Tips For Recycling

      Brett, you’re more confident than I. Let’s hope you’re right.

  • Gagan

    Plastic bags in Delhi need to totally banned irrespective of any excuses, due to other criterion, viz, choking of open drains, swallowing by stray animals, and not proper wastage disposal system. Well written Vandana.

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