Mumbai bans plastic bags and bottles

Indian city to fine or jail residents caught using single-use plastics
Michael Safi The Guardian 25 Jun 18;

Mumbai has the become the largest Indian city to ban single-use plastics, with residents caught using plastic bags, cups or bottles to face penalties of up to 25,000 rupees (£276) and three months in jail from Monday.

Council inspectors in navy blue jackets have been posted across the city to catch businesses or residents still using plastic bags. Penalties have already kicked in for businesses and several, reportedly including a McDonald’s and Starbucks, have already been fined.

Penalties range from 5,000 rupees for first-time offenders to 25,000 rupees and the threat of three months’ jail for those caught repeatedly using single-use plastics.

“For the pollution situation it’s fine to do this but for the people it is a big problem,” said Kamlash Mohan Chaudhary, a Mumbai resident. “People here carry everything in plastic bags.”

Chaudhary, a taxi driver, said he had started carrying a cloth bag and that his local mutton vendor had begun wrapping the meat in newspaper rather than plastic sheets.

Local media have reported complaints from vendors who say some inspectors are using to extort money from businesses.

India recently hosted World Environment Day, which this year focused on the epidemic of plastic waste. About 6.3bn tonnes of plastic globally has been discarded into the environment since 1950, most of which will not break down for at least 450 years.

Half of the world’s plastic was created in the past 13 years and about half of that is thought to be for products used once and thrown away, such as bags, cups or straws.

India’s use of plastic is less than half of the global average: about 11kg a year per capita compared with 109kg in the US.

India has among the highest rates of in the world, according to a 2015 study. Strewn plastic wrappers, cups and bags are a common sight on the streets of Indian cities and beaches and make up part of the mountain-sized landfills on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas such Delhi.

Discontent about Mumbai’s ban was made worse on Monday by torrential rain, which Chaudhary said had soaked through the jute or cloth bags many people were using as an alternative to plastic.

Messages were circulated on WhatsApp with stories of people who had been fined, prompting many to comply. “We are all very afraid,” he said.


Last straw for McDonald's, Burger King in Mumbai plastic ban
AFP Yahoo News 26 Jun 18;

Mumbai (AFP) - Burger King, McDonald's and Starbucks are among dozens of companies fined for violating a new ban on single-use plastics in India's commercial capital Mumbai, an official said Tuesday.

The rules, in force since Saturday, prohibit the use of disposable plastic items such as bags, cutlery, cups and bottles under a certain size.

Businesses and residents face fines of between 5,000 rupees ($73) for a first-time offence to 25,000 rupees ($367) or even three months in jail for repeat offending.

Some 250 officials, wearing blue uniforms and dubbed Mumbai's "anti-plastic squad", have been deployed to carry out inspections of restaurants and shops across the teeming coastal city of 20 million.

Nidhi Choudhari, a deputy municipal commissioner in charge of enforcing the ban, said 660,000 rupees ($9,684) in fines had been collected during the first three days.

She said 132 premises had been issued with penalties including outlets of Burger King, McDonald's and Starbucks.

A branch of Godrej Nature's Basket, a high-end Indian supermarket, had also been penalised, Choudhari added.

"All were fined for using banned plastic straws and disposable cutlery etc," she told AFP.

A spokesperson for Starbucks in India said the company complies with local laws in all of its markets and was committed to "environmental sustainability".

Hardcastle Restaurants, which runs the McDonald's franchise in Mumbai, said it had "successfully transitioned from plastic to eco-friendly and biodegradable alternatives" such as wooden cutlery.

Authorities hope the ban will help clean up Mumbai's beaches and streets, which like other cities in India are awash with vast mountains of plastic rubbish.

Plastic has also been blamed for blocking drains and contributing to flooding during the city's four-month-long summer monsoon.

Authorities first announced the ban -- which covers the whole of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital -- three months ago to allow businesses to prepare.

The majority of India's 29 states have a full or partial ban on single-use plastics but the law is rarely enforced.

Choudhari said more than 8,000 businesses had been searched in Mumbai alone and at least 700 kilogrammes (1,500 pounds) of plastic seized.

Small traders, however, have claimed that the crackdown threatens their livelihoods.

Retailers associations say a confusion over what is and isn't allowed has led small grocery stores to remain closed for fear of being fined.

The Plastic Bags Manufacturers Association of India estimates that 300,000 people employed in the industry could lose their jobs.

The United Nations warned earlier this month that the world could be awash with 12 billion tonnes of plastic trash by the middle of the century if use is maintained at current levels.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently pledged to make India, which was the host of this year's International Environment Day, free of single-use plastic by 2022.

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