The lack of alternatives against single use plastic (SUP) products in Tamil Nadu seem to have made it difficult to execute the ban on the SUPs in the state even as the Central as well as the state government have enforced the restriction.
The Central government has enforced a ban on the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of Single-use plastics from July 1, 2022.
The Tamil Nadu government has banned the use of 14 types of single-use plastics on January 1, 2019, and then reinforced it under “People’s campaign Against Throw Away plastics” on September 3, 2021.
Officials, however, told IANS that even as the ban was implemented in the state from 2019, most of the 14 types of plastics that were banned — as they fall under the category of Single Use Plastics, have made a big comeback into the routine lives of people.
An official with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board told IANS: “Plastic bags have made a big comeback in the state and the major reason is that there are no proper alternatives and if any are there most have shut shops.”
Kumaradas, a businessman, told IANS: “The corporation, municipal and panchayat authorities are more confined to raids on traders and small-time businessman for implementing the act but it is to be noted that in cities like Chennai and Coimbatore, even for a Rs 2 value product, corporates are proving plastic covers.”
He said that without enforcing a stringent ban on corporates and other MNCs there was no point in enforcing the ban in small shops and trade outlets.
However, Tamil Nadu environment department officials said that the ban is effective in the state and that they have shut down those shops that were involved in the manufacture of banned plastic items.
Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change, and Forests, told IANS: “The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has issued closure notice and has disconnected power supply to 177 industries that were involved in the making of single-use plastics.”
The official said that raids were conducted throughout the state by Urban and rural local bodies and 1,742 tonnes of SUPs were seized and a fine of Rs 11.40 crore was imposed on the offenders.
The main difficulty in enforcing the ban, according to officials is the lack of alternatives to single-use plastic. Palmyra leaves that are in use in the market is considered a costly alternative to plastic.
Lakshmi Mohan, an entrepreneur who is into making plates and cups out of palmyra leaves while speaking to IANS said: “The plastic plates and cups are cheap and are available at throw-away prices. The palmyra products are expensive and hence the public shy away from them. However, they should understand that excluding plastic from our daily life and preferring an eco-friendly product that is on the higher side price-wise is a major gesture that we are doing for the coming generations.”
Veerachamy, President of Plastic Rules Defence Committee appealed to the state government to provide continuous financial support to the units that produce alternate to plastic.
He said that very few alternatives have been able to sustain in the market and their volume was less leading to the people depending again on plastic products for their daily routine.
Tamil Nadu State Industrial Development Corporation officials told IANS that there are several schemes for providing 25 per cent subsidy up to Rs 1.5 crore for units that make alternative products to single-use plastics.
However, the banks that have to provide initial loans do not support the alternative to single-use plastic products leading to more manufacturers and entrepreneurs shying away from the production of alternatives.
C.K. Manidas, a social activist and Secretary, Society against Plastics, an NGO working for enforcing the ban in Tamil Nadu, while speaking to IANS, said: “The people must insist that they won’t carry plastic bags and won’t fall prey to the lure of using plastics, instead they can popularise the cloth bags that can be branded as a new item and sold in the market.”
With the government machinery working overtime to enforce the ban on single-use plastic, in real terms with the lack of alternatives in the market, single-use plastic is making a grand comeback which may lead to catastrophe in the state.