INDIA – The northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is struggling with a proposed ban on the use of polythene in packaging “non-essential eatabables”, in particular snacks such as potato chips, cookies, chocolates, chewing gym, noodles and candies.
The local High Court had heard a petition earlier this year on what was described as the “indiscriminate use of plastic” in packaging, and following that issued a court order on 10 January directing the state government to impose a blanket ban across the state from 1 April.
But later, on the request of the state government, which said that additional time was required to evaluate the implications of the ban, the court extended the time limit to implement the ban by three months, setting the new implementation date as 1 July.
After a flurry of petitions protesting the ban – the first such legislation in India, the court has now further delayed the implementation date until 3 September to allow businesses more time to clear their stocks.
Explaining the reason for the ban - which essentially stops the use of plastic packaging for non-essential food items, the court said, "It is not that 100% biodegradable and compostable plastic and packaging material is not available in the market. It may increase the cost of the product. But then people indulging in the luxury of consumption of such consumable items, edible or otherwise, need to share the burden of costs.
Besides being an environmental legislation, legal experts have suggested that the court believes the price rise will be a deterrent for voluminous consumption of junk food, including aerated beverages, which contain a high concentration of synthetic sugars.
"We are of the opinion that there should be a ban on only those non-essential items which fall in the category of junk food such as wafers, sweets, noodles, chocolates, ice cream candy, and biscuits," the court had explained.
"These should be brought into Himachal Pradesh only in biodegradable packaging. Even soft drinks should be brought in glass bottles or other biodegradable packaging but not in non-biodegradable packaging."
The court added, "We also make it clear that if we find that this experiment is successful, then we may expand the scope of this order to cover other non-essential items also."
The Himachal Pradesh government already has a ban in place on polythene bags made of non-biodegradable materials and on disposable plastic products.