Thin is ugly. The people realised this when dealing with the scourge of plastic bags in the environment. But this realisation failed to be converted into concrete action. The Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules 1999 were supposed to do away with the menace of plastic bags, but on hindsight it has become obvious that the rules have fallen flat and may in truth have abetted the growth of the big players in the industry.
Evidently a plethora of laws do not ensure a clean environment especially if they have a muddled perspective. The government in Goa has realised this albeit late to its good fortune. The national rules regarding plastic bags hinged on two very important clauses. Firstly no vendor was to use recycled plastic bags and plastic bags were to be made out of virgin plastic and be 20 microns thick. It was here that the problem lay which the government of Goa found out much to its chagrin.
Now thin is ugly and fat is beautiful. The government in Goa is planning to only permit the sale of plastic bags of 100-micron thickness. There is a certain logic and intelligence behind this move. It was earlier assumed that plastic bags of 20-micron thickness would be more expensive than the ones flooding the market and their use would therefore be discouraged. The decision to make bags thicker goes a step further. For one, such a bag will cost around Rs 10 and will not be supplied free of cost by vendors. Its thickness can be determined visually and people will be encouraged to reuse it and not throw it away. But the menace of plastics is not confined to bags and anti-plastic campaigners should not rest on their laurels.
Plastics come in many other forms. There are pet bottles for which manufacturers still fail to take onus or recycle. Cold drinks and water are packed in these and the size of the industry is growing. Unless the government formulates some kind of rules and regulations that force manufacturers to incur the expense of recycling these it may create another problem of pollution from plastic very soon.
The central government should follow the lead taken by Goa and think ahead as well. The spurt in the use of any kind of plastic is dangerous for the environment and needs to be checked. In view of this it is very important to amend the Central rules as well so that states can implement the 100-micron thickness limit, the recent Madras High Court judgement comes as a blow to the anti-plastic campaign whereby the court has insisted that the state is only bound to implement the 20-micron thickness limit.
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