MUMBAI has become the largest Indian city to ban single-use plastics, rolling out council inspectors to impose fines up to 25,000 rupees (US$ 367) and three months in jail for residents caught violating the new ruling.
While India has a per capita plastic usage far below the global average – just 11kg per person per year compared to 109kg in America – the country has long struggled with managing the volume resulting in mountain-sized landfills, blocked drains, and rubbish strewn streets.
According to the Guardian, a number of global corporations have already fallen foul of the statewide ban, which was imposed on Monday. Both McDonalds and Starbucks have been fined.
Locals have voiced concern over the new penalties fearing the city’s reliance on plastics will be difficult for business to overcome.
“For the pollution situation it’s fine to do this but for the people it is a big problem,” Kamlash Mohan Chaudhary, a Mumbai resident told the Guardian. “People here carry everything in plastic bags.”
But others are relieved and hope the ban will help to ease some of the pollution under which the city is drowning.
“It’s not that we aren’t facing any difficulties, but it will be beneficial for us in the long run. We are happy with the decision,” one Mumbai resident told ANI.
According to NDTV, Maharashtra State generates 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste every day. Mumbai alone generates 500 metric tonnes every day which accounts for nearly 10 percent of its total waste.
Penalties start from 5,000 rupees (US$ 74) for first-time offenders. This then goes up to 10,000 rupees for a second offence and 25,000 rupees and three months in jail for those caught a third time.
Small businesses and individuals are not the intended targets of the ban, Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said on Monday. Large-scale manufacturers, however, will be dealt with harshly.
“We will ensure that common people and small traders are not harassed. But strict action will be taken again plastic manufacturers (if they break the law),” Kadam said.
“This decision has been taken for the betterment of the state.”
Maharashtra is the 18th state in India to introduce the ban after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a pledge to clean up the country by the time his term ends in 2019.
Despite the pledge, India continues to generate around 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annually and clean-up groups and NGOs say they are losing the battle.
In other cities, such as Delhi which introduced a ban in 2009, the law is rarely enforced.
Beating plastic pollution was the central theme of this year’s World Environment Day, which was hosted by India earlier this month.
According to the UN, about 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic globally has been discarded into the environment since 1950, most of which will not break down for at least 450 years.