As part of its ambitious Meendum Manjapai (return of cloth bag) campaign, the Tamil Nadu government is to develop alternatives for single-use plastics. The state is also planning an extensive campaign among youth and children against the bad effects of plastic and how to get rid of it and instead use alternatives.
The state government, according to officials of the Department of Environment, is planning to introduce modern school bags made of jute and other alternative materials and to popularise them among children and youth.
The environment department will rope in self-help groups in all districts to make alternative products to single-use plastic. According to Tamil Nadu principal secretary (environment), Supriya Sahu there are 14 alternatives to single-use plastic.
Speaking to IANS, Sahu said, “The alternatives to single-use plastics are being made and they have to come in the market in large numbers. Until then people will resort to single-use plastics and we are in the process of creating a campaign among youths and school children against the menace of plastic.”
Sahu also said that the department has issued orders to conduct surprise checks at commercial establishments to ensure that the ban is effected in toto. However, with no alternatives to single-use plastics in place, people are still using plastic bags and other items.
M. R. Manojkumar, environmental activist and chairman, Tamil Nadu state institute for research and studies of environmental protection based out of Kanniyakumari, told IANS that “Of course, the government has banned the use of single-use plastics. But where is the alternative? We have to revert clearly to the Meendum Manjapai campaign as yellow cloth bags were part of our culture and this plastic culture is use and throw. Let us revert back to cloth bags, jute bags and other bags that can be reused thus saving the environment and our culture as well.”
Senior officers of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board also agreed that the ban cannot be effective unless alternatives are provided. A TNPCB official told IANS that cloth and jute bags are the main alternatives and large numbers are already being introduced into the market. He said, “Cloth bags and jute bags are the main alternatives at present and large numbers are already in the market. However, this is not enough and there need to be more volumes of these bags in the market so that the plastic ban can be effectively implemented, thus saving the environment.”