Delhi to Ban Plastic Bags

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New Delhi has banned the use of plastic bags in all shops, starting very soon. Notification has been sent out to all shopkeepers, and they are being given 10 to 12 days to fall into line. After that, traders will have to pay a penalty or spend five years in prison (what!). That's the new law that the Delhi government says it is ready to enforce. Civil servants said that punitive measures were needed after another law prohibiting plastic bags was ignored. However they do accept that the new ban will have to be implemented slowly.

This will be a huge change for this city of 16M people. Now residents use more than 10 M every day in the capital. The streets are littered with them and they clog up sewage pipes and are breeding grounds for malaria and dengue fever. Traders are being told to use jute, paper and cloth instead. However in a nation of small shops, the carry bag might turn out to be more expensive than the goods being sold.

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Initially, the sale and storage of all plastic bags will be forbidden in 5 star and 4 star hotels, hospitals, large restaurants, and large chains. In other places only the use of biodegradable plastic bags will be allowed. These have been used in many shops and cafes for several months now and manufacturers claim that the price is not so prohibitive. However, ultimately these will be banned too.

Things sound pretty chaotic with many claiming not to even know that the edict was in existence. Needless to say the shopkeepers are frantic. They are now asking the government for assistance. To begin with, the ban will be lightly enforced. Officials said it would be up to the courts to decide on how harsh a sentence an offender might face — and refused to comment on the chances of shoppers going to jail.

Environmentalists feel that the government has to do more: "The government needs to give incentives for using alternatives. Several cottage industries that were involved in making paper and cloth bags died out due to competition from plastic but they have to be revived for which a fixed market needs to be created, at least initially. "

Countries such as Rwanda, Bhutan and Bangladesh have all had bans enforced. Guardian
More on Cities Banning Plastic Bags
San Francisco to Ban Plastic Bags
China Launches Crack Down on Plastic Bags
Modbury: A Year without Plastic Bags

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