Is Ban on Plastic Bags the Way Ahead?

The demands to ban plastic bags are echoing all around the place with many states having already banned them or are in the process of passing such judgment. These plastic bags have created many problems ranging from choking drains and marine life to affecting environment on account of their being non-biodegradable. But this reckless banning of them raised a question in mind about how these plastic bags came into being?

Well, the plastic bags came into being to prevent the massive felling of trees for manufacturing of paper bags. So the plastic bags were seen as the saviors and hailed. So their manufacturing was also recklessly promoted as they are being banned these days. Plastic bags did help in serving that purpose, preventing deforestation. But yes, they did become nuisance because they choked drains, became a threat to marine life and due to their non-biodegradable properties. So the bags once made were there for always that were hailed as saviors once, soon were rechristened as destructors.

So does that mean that manufacturing them was a big mistake that we committed and now it should be corrected by banning their production? The places where plastic bags are banned, shopkeepers have started using paper bags. So we are actually going back in time. Our drains will flow freely again but trees will be cut again.

The solution doesn’t lie in a blanket ban on plastic bags. That way we’ll just reach that point from where we began. Promoting paper bags in place of plastic bags is in no way wise. The media is full of myths about plastic bags and their uses. One of them is that it is costlier to recycle plastic bags than to produce new. A website, quotes a leading recycler as that recycling is in no way costlier but is about four times less costly. Govt. should actually promote recycling of plastic bags instead of having them dumped off in the landfills and then complain about their taking up space for ever.

Biodegradable plastic and plastic bags of proper thickness should be made available and promoted. These are any day better to environment than paper bags. The govt. should direct retailers in this direction as to promote these bags and also cloth bags. Kroger, a leading retail chain gives 5 cents off for every recyclable bag you bring yourself, a way of passing on the saving one does by not having to give away plastic bags. Providing incentives for the production of degradable plastic bags, setting up recycling plants and taking steps to promote their reuse is the way ahead.

A complete ban on plastic bags will only worsen the situation and take us full circle. We need to promote its judicious use and reuse and then its recycle. Alternatives like clothe bags and jute bags which have longer life and are nature friendly too should be promoted and their production should be given incentives as well. Plastic is not bad but it’s about using it judiciously.
Pawan Gupta

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