INDIA – The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is implementing a ban on the sale of a range of “non-essential food items” in non-biodegradable and plastic packaging material, effective 26 January 2014.
On 26 December, the Himachal Pradesh High Court gave the green light to the ban on plastic packaging for junk food items, including potato chips, wafer biscuits, chocolates, sweets etc, and has directed district magistrates and the state police to strictly enforce the ban.
In addition, the division bench – comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice V K Sharma – has specifically directed the government to ensure that edible oils/fats are packed in tin containers and not plastic bottles or pouches.
Essential food items such as bread, milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, meat products and medicines are still allowed to be sold in plastic packaging until 31 March 2014, after which they will have to be manufactured, transported, sold, packaged and distributed as per the Food Safety & Standards (Packaging & Labelling) Regulation, 2011.
While drinking water is exempt from the ban, other beverages – in particular carbonated soft drinks - have to be sold in glass bottles instead of plastic bottles.
Apart from the environmental motivations behind the ban, the High Court believes that this legislation will help deter the excessive consumption of unhealthy junk food in the state.
Himachal Pradesh had first proposed to implement the state ban on junk food items in plastic packaging from 1 April 2013 in response to three petitions filed in 2012 to reduce the indiscriminate use of plastic.
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.
In March 2013, the Sanyukt Vyapar Mandal Khalini, the Indian Biscuits Manufacturers Association, NOIDA, the Haroli Block Industries Associations, and Tahliwal Una filed a petition against the government notification – resulting in a series of stays on the ban until 26 December when the High Court finally legalized the ban and set the date of implementation for 26 January 2014.
Himachal Pradesh was the first Indian state to ban the production, storage, sale, distribution and use of colored polythene shopping bags in 1999. This was extended to polythene bags of less than 70 micron thickness and 12x18 inches in size in 2004, followed by a complete ban on such bags in October 2009. Under the law, anyone found even using a polythene bag could face up to seven years behind bars or a fine of up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,600). This particular ban is understood to have been fairly successfully enforced in the state.