INDIA – One Indian city’s move two years ago to eliminate plastic bag usage and minimize the use of plastic items is encouraging other cities to follow suit.
In August 2010, Dapoli, a tourist destination situated in Ratagiri district some 185 km away from Pune, implemented a waste minimization strategy of segregating reusable plastic waste into items for processing and others that cannot be processed.
In addition, the city decided to phase out the use of plastic bags and started by only allowing the use of plastic bags that are less than 50 microns thick and recyclable, while encouraging the use of paper bags. Two years later, plastic grocery bags are no longer used in Dapoli.
Valsa R Nair Singh, secretary, Department of Environment, said Dapoli's initiative has been a major success: "I have written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests requesting it to widely promote the experiment so that other local self-government bodies can replicate it.
“I have informed all local self-government bodies in the state about the project and asked them to consider the model," she added.
Local businessman Prasad Phatak commented, "Civic officials first came up with alternatives and then asked us to stop using plastic bags. The council has also asked retailers and citizens to reduce the use of carry bags."
Service providers were also asked to discourage tourists from using plastic material and dispose of the waste in bins provided by the council instead of littering. The local government roped in local NGOs, activists, students and businessmen to help increase awareness about plastic and its adverse impact on the environment.
"We realized how clean we can keep our town," Phatak added.
Ramdas Kokare, Chief Officer of Dapoli Municipal Council, was one of the key personnel involved in the implementation of the city’s environmental strategy: "People were used to plastic carry bags, and we decided to change this habit among the locals. Instead of imposing a ban on plastic bags with less than 50 micron size, I decided to introduce paper bags as an alternative. They decompose easily, do not affect the environment and its production process is eco-friendly. Local self-help groups were roped in to produce paper bags and some awareness campaigns organized in August 2010.
“Once retail shop owners, cloth merchants and businessmen realized that the plastic ban can be implemented without their business getting affected, they cooperated."