Monday, July 22, 2024
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The short-lived single-use plastic ban

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SHILLONG, June 5: The battle against single-use plastics unfolded with optimism back in 2022 with the Central Board of Pollution (CPCB) banning its usage. As the world celebrates World Environment Day, reflections on this short-lived experiment shed light on the complexities of environmental stewardship.
The CPCB heralded a nationwide ban on single-use plastics, aiming to safeguard natural beauty and protect fragile ecosystems. Joined by the Shillong Municipal Board, Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), and Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, the ban was aimed at being a collective effort to curb plastic pollution. However, the reality proved more complex.
Shopkeepers in Khyndai Lad, anticipating the ban’s brevity, voiced concerns over the lack of viable alternatives. “We knew this was going to be short-lived,” expressed one shopkeeper, highlighting the challenge of customer demand for plastic bags.
Despite efforts to introduce paper and jute bags, cost-conscious consumers resisted, preferring convenience over environmental consciousness.
What can also be further scrutinised were plastic bottles littered on the streets of Polo post election victory, questioning the efficacy of regulatory measures. The omnipresence of plastic chips packets compounded the issue, challenging traditional notions of control and disposal.
Several small shopkeepers, who sell fruits and several other small things, seemed to be well aware of the hazard of single-use plastic, and added, “When a customer does not have a bag, what do we do? Do we just not sell the produce?”
Amidst this conundrum, the underlying dilemma emerged: balancing environmental preservation with practicality and consumer behavior. Despite acknowledging the environmental ramifications, shopkeepers emphasised the need for feasible alternatives to facilitate a transition away from single-use plastics.
Another shopkeeper, said, “Consumers buy jute bags from high-end chains but from us, they do ask for free polythene bags. If we buy eco-friendly bags, they come at a cost.”
The dialogue spurred by this short-lived ban underscores the necessity for sustained efforts beyond symbolic gestures. Perhaps, as one astute shopkeeper questioned this reporter as to why must the topic of environment and single use plastic only be discussed on Environment day, and not other days.

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