Scramble for alternatives to plastics begins

Price of cloth bags shoot up from Rs. 3 to Rs. 50, say sellers

Day one of the ban on single-use plastics in the State on Tuesday witnessed the hiking of prices of alternatives such as cloth bags and banana leaves, sale of non-woven bags as permissible, many hotels and shops switching to alternatives and plastic manufacturers and sellers shutting shop, protesting seizure of all kinds of plastics in Kancheepuram, Salem, Villupuram, Paramakudi, Madurai and Vellore. In Chennai, a plastics wholesaler who had shut shop claimed that in many places local body workers had been bringing back seized goods over the past month and selling it back to them. The prices of banana leaves shot up from Rs. 2 to Rs. 15 a piece and that of cloth bags from Rs. 3 to Rs. 50 each, said a seller.

‘Clarity needed’

A plastics manufacturer said that there was still a lot of confusion as to what was banned and that even officials on raids were not sure of what is what. “My plastic sheet is used as packaging material by industries and also by small eateries to be used on plates. I cannot determine the end use. I need clarity,” he said. The ban saw a mixed response in Coimbatore, Tiruchi and Madurai. In Coimbatore, most restaurants and retailers had switched over to alternatives. Interestingly, poultry meat stall owners were offering Rs. 5 rebate or free eggs for people who come with vessels to carry home the poultry meat. A few Tasmac outlets had replaced plastic cups with glass tumblers. In the Nilgiris, officials inspected the Udhagamandalam and Coonoor markets to ensure that non-woven bags were not being used by vendors, shop owners and restaurants to package food.

Products seized

The district administration had seized more than 75 kg of banned plastic products from store owners and levied fines of Rs. 1.64 lakh on business owners continuing to flout rules. In Erode, most large commercial establishments, including textile showrooms and restaurants, displayed messages about the ban and asked customers to bring their own bags. However, smaller establishments continued to use the banned items as they said that alternative products were not available or were costly. “They should have supplied us with alternatives before the ban began,” said a fruit seller.

In Madurai, many shopkeepers and hoteliers continued the practice of using non-woven bags on the first day of the implementation of the plastics ban on Monday. S. Pandi, a fruit seller in Goripalayam, said that most people were still unaware that non-woven bags cannot be used. “I bought them in bulk and have no choice but to use them until I exhaust stock. The officials from the Corporation and district administration should have created more awareness,” he said. Many hotels began displaying signs asking customers to bring their own tiffin carriers and bags for take-aways. “In case the customers do not bring their own bags, we package the food in banana leaves. We are yet to find viable and cheap alternatives to pack sambar and chutney,” said K. Kannan, owner of a small-scale restaurant.

‘Strong awareness’

Many shoppers in Tiruchi were seen carrying cloth bags to buy vegetables and grocery items. Several grocery shops had put up notices asking customers to bring cloth bags. “We notice strong awareness among the customers on plastic ban. Most of them brought cloth bags to buy commodities on the first day of the ban,” said M. Manikandan, a grocery trader at Cantonment in Tiruchi. In Kancheepuram, the district administration plans to step up the on-going awareness campaigns to highlight the impact of the non-recyclable and non-degradable plastic products on the environment.

“This is so that the consumer is better informed and can help bring about the change,” said an official. In Tiruvannamalai, Collector K.S. Kandasamy inaugurated a permanent shop for alternatives to banned plastic items on Tuesday. An initiative of the Tiruvannamalai Municipality, the sale counter/shop at Asaliamman Koil Street sold alternatives to banned plastics, said S. Parijatham, Commissioner of the municipality.

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