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Penalty, Jail And More: How Mumbai Will Enforce the Plastic Ban

Starting 23 June, Mumbai will join cities like Seattle, Montreal and Hamburg to ban plastic.

Published
India
3 min read
Image used for representational purposes only.
i

Starting 23 June, Mumbai will join cities like Seattle in US, Montreal in Canada, and Hamburg in Germany to ban plastic.

This follows a 23 March notification by Maharashtra that banned the use, sale, distribution and storage of single-use plastic and articles made from thermocol. The western Indian state contributes 30 percent of all plastic waste in India, according to data available with the Central Pollution Control Board.

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Such initiatives aren’t unique the world over. Late last month, the EU proposed a total ban on some single-use plastic items, including cotton buds, cutlery, stirrers and sticks for balloons. Kenya has imposed perhaps the world’s harshest ban, where anyone found using, producing or selling a plastic bag can be jailed for up to four years or face a $40,000 fine.

In India, 25 states have some form of ban on plastic, according to a report by IndiaSpend. Implementation has been patchy though. The Maharashtra and Mumbai administrations gave people three months to switch to alternatives. Now, those found using plastic will face fines and even jail.

Here’s what you can’t use and how Mumbai plans to implement the ban:

What’s Banned And What’s Not

According to a government notification dated 23 March:

Banned Items

  • High-quality carry bags issued in shopping malls
  • Plastic, thermocol decorative items
  • Disposable cutlery
  • Non-woven polypropylene bags

Not Banned

  • PET bottles (used by cola and water companies), milk pouches, garbage liners
  • Bags with uses in agriculture, horticulture and medicine
  • Raincoats, pens, plastic wrappers at manufacturing level

Penalties In Store

Nidhi Choudhary, deputy municipal commissioner (special) of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, said offenders face a three-stage penalty structure:

  • First-time offenders will be fined Rs 5,000
  • This doubles to Rs 10,000 for second offence
  • Third-time offenders will face either a Rs 25,000 penalty and a jail term of up to three months

The corporation had proposed reducing the penalties to Rs 200, Rs 500, and Rs 1,000 respectively, she said. The civic body’s law committee, however, rejected the proposal, The Times of India reported.

Stalin Dayanand, activist and project director at the Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation Vanashakti, said the penalty structure is too steep. “[It] will lead to corruption. The new, proposed penalty structure is correct.”

Recovered plastics are laid out to dry on a rooftop in a slum area of India.
Recovered plastics are laid out to dry on a rooftop in a slum area of India.
(Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

Who Will Implement It in Mumbai

For effective implementation of the ban:

  • The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has appointed a 249-member squad to monitor plastic usage on the streets, said Choudhary
  • It has printed receipts for fines
  • Citizens must not pay fines without demanding receipts
  • Penalties and the plastic seized will be monitored by the Assistant Municipal Commissioner (Special) of the corporation

“Monitoring squads will be authorised to conduct raids anywhere without notice. We’ll go as a force to specific areas that are chronically affected,” according to Choudhary. “Houses won’t be raided.”

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Mumbai Civic Body Has No Plastic Recycling Unit

In the three months through 22 June, the BMC seized 142 tonnes of plastic, which will be given away for recycling, Choudhary said. That compares with 15 tonnes of plastic collected in earlier drives since 2012. It’s still stored with the BMC as the civic body doesn’t have recycling units and it’s being handled by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, she said. “We’ll issue tenders in this regard soon.”

Dayanand is optimistic that the plastic ban will be successful as the end users are being targeted. “I estimate an initial success rate of 80 percent, which will climb to 100 percent within a year. Manufacturing will stop once consumption stops.”

(Published in an arrangement with BloombergQuint)

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