Pimpri-Chinchwad: Vegetable sellers, street vendors continue to use banned plastic bags

Anjali Marar
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At Pimpri vegetable market on Sunday. (Photo: Rajesh Stephen)

Even as the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) is gearing up for the Swachh Survekshan 2020, it has failed to keep a check on the use of single-use plastic items within its corporation limits.

Areas within Pimpri-Chinchwad seem to have gone easy on the use of the banned plastic items, with sellers in vegetable markets and street vendors increasingly seen using them.

Since June 2018, the Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Notification came into effect and single-use plastic bags below 50 microns were banned in the state with a fine of Rs 5,000 imposed for the violation of the rule. Subsequently, regular checks by the health department in the following months had yielded significant results, after which shops, malls and others outlets switched to either paper or cloth bags.

Nigdi and Pimpri ranked among the top flouters of the ban and the two wards alone contributed to over 7,000 kg and 1,000 kg, respectively, of banned plastic items collected between June 2018 and January 2019. Overall, more than 9,500 kg banned plastic items pegged at Rs 15.40 lakh were confiscated within the 10 months since the ban came into effect.

With the checks and raids against the banned items now having gone cold, vegetable and street vendors have started using plastic bags once again. Some localities where plastic items are in circulation include Pimpri camp, vegetable market, Chinchwad gaon, Pimple Saudagar and Sangvi, among others.

“Customers do not buy vegetables if we don’t provide them with carry bags. I cannot afford cloth or paper bags, so I have to make this arrangement,” said a vegetable vendor near Govind Garden chowk in Pimple Saudagar.

When asked about the items being banned and the possible penalty their use could attract, he said, “I am aware of the ban. But, how do I sustain my business if there are no buyers just because of carry bags?’’

Pimpri vegetable market is one of the oldest and largest markets in the twin town, where thousands come to buy essential goods everyday. Here, coloured polythene bags — in pink, orange green and blue — measuring less than 50 microns are in open circulation.

While PCMC is gearing up for the Swachh Survekshan 2020, residents have raised the concern if the civic body was serious about keeping a check on plastic items.

“We carry cloth bags for shopping, but of late, the banned polythene bags have surfaced again. Fruits and vegetables are being sold in these bags. Where should one complain about it?” asked Navjeevan Ram, a senior citizen and a resident of Pimpri.

However, Nana Kate, leader of opposition in PCMC, said the ban has been largely effective in the locality. He said no formal complaints have reached his office. “If these banned products are again in use, then I shall direct the officials of PCMC health department to carry out raids in the locality. If needed, we can also conduct an awareness drive,” said Kate.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for a blanket ban on single-use plastic items a few months ago. However, the move is yet to gain momentum. Since the start of the new year, Kerala has declared ban of plastic items.