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Plastic Ban – Is Chennai Ready?

Plastic Ban, Live Date, Process, Government Order, Excemptions

8Introduction

The Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minter Edapaadi K Palaniswami’s announcement on June 5th 2018 (International Environment Data) for a Plastic Free Tamil Nadu is to about to take effect from January 2019 (Link to Government Order). With just handful of days left, we tried to find to if Chennai is prepared for this ban, is there an awareness of the list of items to be banned, how well are citizens informed of its impact and benefits of the Ban. It is interesting to note that a similar effort by the previous Chief Minister Jayalalitha in May 2002 was ineffective. The Tamil Nadu Plastic Manufacturers Association cited reasons of large-scale unemployment and lack of other economically viable alternatives to bring down the plastic free Tamil Nadu initiatives in 2002. However, the benefits of going plastic free outweigh the short-term challenges. Before we get to how well is Chennai prepared to be Plastic Free, let us take you through the nuances of the Implementation.

Did You Know? 
Other states in India has banned plastics only below 50 microns while Chennai has implemented 100% complete Ban!

7List of Plastic items to be Banned in Tamil Nadu

As per the Government Directive following items are to be banned from Tamil Nadu from January 2019:

  • Plastics: All plastics containing High polymer as an essential ingredient are to be banned from Tamil Nadu. High Polymers include “polyethylene terephthalate”, high-density polyethlylene, low density polyethylene, Vinyl, Polypropylene, Polystyrene resins and other multi-materials.
  • Use and Throw Plastics: All one-time plastics which are meant for use and throw are under the ban. This would include plastic bags, plastic flags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic tumblers, plastics water pouches of packets, plastic straws,…
  • Plastic Sheets: Plastic Sheets used for food wrapping or serving food will also be banned.

6List of Plastic Items to be Exempted from Ban in Tamil Nadu

However, following items are exempted from Plastic Ban in Tamil Nadu
Compostable Plastic: Carry Bags made of compostable plastic and conforming to the norms of ISO 17088: 2008 are exempted from the Tamil Nadu Plastic Ban item list. Though an expensive alternative, this plastic leaves very little toxic residue and undergoes degradation by biological process.

  • Milk Packets: The plastic used for Milk and dairy products are exempted from the ban.
  • Medical products: The plastic used for healthcare services, medicine and medical equipment are exempted from the ban.
  • Nurseries: The plastic bags and sheets used in Forestry and Horticulture nurseries are exempted from the Ban.
  • SEZ and EOU: The plastic Carry bags and Packaging goods used solely for exporting purposes in industries located in Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Export Oriented Units.

5How will Chennai traders be affected by the Ban

A data from Industries estimates close to 3000 registered and 4000 unregistered units in Chennai. Overall Tamil Nadu accounts for 7000 registered and 15000 unregistered units. The small Industries and tiny industries traders who account for 1000 units and 24000 units respectively will be most affected by this Plastic Ban in Tamil Nadu. The Plastic Manufacturing companies estimate that approximately two lakh to three lakh laborers will be affected of their employment due to ban. Tamil Nadu Plastic Manufacturers Association (TAMPA) has also claimed that many small and medium-sized industries with an aggregate investment of over three thousand crore rupees is at loss risk. The TAMPA also estimates a bankruptcy risk or non-performing assets risk of four thousand crore rupees availed by these Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in forms of loans and Bank Credits. In Chennai, the shopping hub of T-Nagar which generates close to thirty thousand crores annually has two class of traders. The upper corporate business owners and traders are prepared with cloth alternatives to bags and pouches. However, the street level small traders and medium business owners are not very prepared to face the ban. The lack of willingness to implement the ban is largely due to the upfront investment required to procure reusable bags or bio degradable plastics. There is also very little awareness of the plastic alternatives and storage best practices among these traders. Hence the economic impact among Small and Medium Enterprise traders is estimated to be high.

Another unidentified class of individuals who will be affected by the Plastic Ban are rag pickers or the re-cycling experts, as we like them to be termed. Approximately 20000 Rag pickers are in Chennai who make their living through recycling plastics. These strata of the informal society will be hugely affected with the Plastic Ban. The Plastic Ban in Tamil Nadu will also affect impact the manufacturing and packaging industry, specifically plastic manufacturers.

4Madras High Court on Plastic Ban

While the implementation of the Plastic Ban by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board () is taking course, the counter efforts of Tamil Nadu Plastic Association (TAMPA) to legally stall the ban is also in parallel unfolding with the Madras High Court. The reason as cited in 2002 like loss of employment, economic loss, lack of other viable alternatives to plastics are few of the many reasons presented before the division bench Justice MM Sundresh and Justice Krishnan Ramasamy. The association in the High Court also challenged the power in the State Government in executing orders regarding Environmental Protection and super seeding the jurisdiction the is reserved only for Central Government. The High Court has not yet provided a stay for State Government’s GO, however a response from the state advocate is expected by December 21, 2018. The last few days of 2018 will see a concrete legal standing with respect to ban taking effect.

3How will Chennai Benefit from the Ban?

Chennai generates 429 tonnes of Plastic each day! The would be approximately 9.54% of total solid waste generated by the city. The benefits of banning plastics will not just be evident in the city’s environment but of also in health of citizens and long-term economy of the state.

Better Economy

Though in the view of TAMPA there is estimated immediate economic and job loss from plastic ban, in reality and on long-term the business of production and manufacturing of reusable bags. The jute and textile industry can be a integral part of the packaging and goods domain, thereby boosting both economies and increasing the scalability of employment opportunities.

Better drinking water

Yes! You read it right. All waste, including the inert plastic, reach the ground or dumpyard, thereby altering the ground water table or the quality of the water you drink. Tamil Nadu Plastic Ban, if implemented will completely address this problem! The plastic waste which are non-degradable when removed from total solid waste composition, will curb the ground aquifers from being polluted from toxic plastic waste.

Retail Savings

While reusable cloth bags is an alternative to retail shopping, encouraging citizens to carry their own bags will result in annual savings of up to rupees five hundred. With plastic storage and carry bags being included by the retailer for a cost, without carry bags a retailer will be able to pass on a marginal discount benefit to the customer.

Better Storm Water Drains

Chennai Floods was also due to lack of delisting measures implemented in the drainage channels. The Plastic Ban will address the problem at it’s source! The reduce in plastic source will cause lesser clogs in the storm water drains, thereby equipping out city to be a little more flood prepared.

Better Health

Plastic Ban in Chennai will have two folded health benefits! One, in curbing diseases related to contaminated ground water. Second, in preventing the infectious spread of vector-borne diseases. Plastic bags tend to collect fresh rain water, which in turn becomes habitat zones for breeding mosquitoes. The first causes long term diseases like cancer, while the latter causes diseases like malaria, dengue ,….The plastic ban will help citizens in having a greater guard against these diseases.

Better Environment, Of course

The life around us mankind including that of Plants, animals and marine ecosystems will greatly improve within Chennai because of Plastic Bans. Many animals like cows, goats and dogs consume plastic along with food residues which makes them vulnerable for deadly diseases. The Tamil Nadu Plastic Ban on a long term will resonate as echoes of from the environment thanking us for giving a gift of sustainability back to nature!

2Best practice to Plastic Ban: Nilgris

The Western Ghats which is known for international bio-diversity is a classic case of why the plastic ban is possible and why it does matter in conserving the environment! The success of the plastic Ban in Nilgiris is accorded to Ms. Innocent Divya the district collector. The district with 11 towns and 35 village panchayats has no room for plastic products, sales or utilities. Plastics Ban enforcement is strictly adhered to with a “green tax” fine of Rs. 1000 for the retailer, Rs. 5000 for wholesales and Rs. 20000 for wedding halls for the out-laws. Continuous monitoring along the check-posts and entry points also are conducted to curb entry of plastic items into the district. In Ooty, where the tourism industry is at its peak, one can find small and tiny retailers strictly adhering to the plastic ban. A shopping retailer in Ooty usually packs items in a reusable cloth bag for a charge of Rs. 15/small bag and Rs.30/large bag. This encourages the residents to also carry their own bag for retail shopping within the district. A hot tea or a cold juice in Ooty is also served only in a glass! Straws are not served in restaurants or hotels in ooty. All utensils including plates, spoons, cups are all stainless steel. It is very interesting to observe that ooty despite of it’s loaded floating tourist population now generates very little municipal waste. Thanks to plastic ban that is strictly being enforced within its limits.

1Alternatives to Plastics:

Nilgiris is a classic example of why Plastic Ban is Possible. A few of the alternatives we observed to plastics in ooty are summarized here:

  • Glass and Stainless Steel Utensils for consuming Food and Beverages
  • Carry your own Shopping Bag or buy Reusable Retail Cloth Bags for a minimal cost
  • Paper food wraps or Aluminum foils instead of plastic sheets to pack foods.
  • Wooden Food Boxes and Spoon to pack or take-away food.
  • Paper covers in small and medium sizes for packaging products instead of small plastic bags or pouches.
  • Use bio plastics that are made from starch.

The Chennai Plastic Ban requires cooperation of the citizen to be a success! At the moment, the traders and Plastic manufactures are not yet prepared to face the Plastic Ban. But, citizens, small independent traders and business owners can be well-prepared to with low cost alternatives to plastic. Afterall, if Nilgris District can go plastic free in Tamil Nadu, why not Chennai?