ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Toll on Mumbai’s Recycling Industry

Maharashtra’s War on Plastic

A brief investigation into the effects of the plastic ban in Maharashtra reveals that such regulations are riddled with arbitrariness and the absence of any accurate assessment of the scale of the problem of plastic waste. Further, such bans have the unintended consequence of creating a downturn in the plastic recycling sector, a sector which—in the absence of municipal support—handles much of the plastic waste of urban centres like Mumbai.

On 15 March 2018,1 the Maharastra state cabinet passed a decision to ban single-use plastics. What ostensibly began two decades ago as an environmental drive against polythene bags in Maharashtra—Mumbai in particular—reached its zenith, the imposition of a wide-ranging ban on single-use plastic items. This includes items such as thermocol plates, small polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, flexes and plastic cutlery. This was neither the first statewide plastic ban in India, nor was it a first for Maharashtra. With this ban, Maharashtra joined a list of over 18 states in the country, which have imposed a partial or complete ban on single-use plastics. Since the early 2000s, regulations across municipalities, such as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), have banned plastic bags. Some regulations had progressively increased the minimum thickness of polythene carry bags from 20 microns to 60 microns. Table 1 lists out some of these regulations. Each legislation seems to have not made any dent in the problem of plastic waste.2

The problems of implementation of a plastic ban are not unique to India. Across the world, bans on plastic (primarily polythene bags) and taxation of plastic bags have achieved mixed results, with many of them failing even in the developed world (Stephenson 2018). In the state of California, the ban on plastic bags has largely been successful in reducing single-use plastic bag waste (Los Angeles Times 2017). However, in Austin, Texas, the ban on plastic bags had an unintended consequence. Residents of the city began “throwing away heavy-duty reusable plastic bags at an unprecedented rate,” thereby defeating the purpose of the ban on single-use plastic bags (Minter 2015). In the developing world, Kenya promulgated an ordinance of a nationwide ban on plastic bags; a decision welcomed by environmentalists, but one that has been mired in controversy for its selective implementation, often labelled as corruption (Watts 2018; Muchangi and Koech 2018).

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Updated On : 3rd Jul, 2021
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