The Kerala government has decided to ban the manufacture, sale and storage of plastic products across the state effective from January 1, 2020. The state has also given more authority to the Pollution Control Board by laying down heavy fines for those found violating the plastic ban.
The decision was taken on Thursday at a cabinet meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and is based on the recommendations of an expert technical committee. The committee was to advise the state on how to control the use of plastic substances.
Two state-owned enterprises have exempted the ban — the Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (MILMA) and Kerala State Beverages Corporation — but companies have been asked to buy back the plastic bottles they sell. The state has also allowed the use of plastic used for medical purposes and compostable plastic.
Until now in Kerala, plastic carry bags up to a certain grade were allowed.
So what kind of plastic has been banned?
A press statement from the Chief Ministers Office noted that the cabinet has decided to ban plastic carry bag (regardless of thickness), plastic sheets used to spread on tables, cooling film, plates, cups, thermocol and styrofoam for decorative purposes, all single-use plastic cups, plates, spoons, forks, straws, dishes and stirrers. Paper cups, plates, bowl with plastic coating have also been banned.
Non-woven bags, plastic flags, plastic bunting, plastic water pouches, plastic juice packets, drinking pet bottles (below 300ml), plastic garbage bags, PVC flex materials and plastic packets are also banned. The government has also banned the use of flex boards in the state. All the items have been banned under the Prohibition Act, 1986.
District Collectors, Sub-Divisional Magistrates, Pollution Control Board Officers, Local Government Secretaries and Central Government appointed officials under the Environmental Protection Act are entitled to take action against those found violating the ban.
Plastic manufacturers, wholesalers and small sellers who are found violating the law can be fined Rs 10,000 for their first offence. They would be fined Rs 25,000 if found violating the ban the second time. Failure to comply with the law for the third time would result in a fine of Rs 50,000 and cancellation of their work permit.
The power to take this decision has been vested in local authority secretaries and pollution control board officials.
What plastic is allowed?
The plastic bottles and packets sold by Kerala Beverages Corporation, KeralaFed, Milma and Kerala Water Authority bought back by them from their consumers, according to the Extended Producers Responsibility Plan of the state government.
Only plastics manufactured for export, plastics used in the healthcare industry, and materials made from compostable plastics (labelled ISO or ISO 17088: 2008) have been exempted from the ban.
The Department of Industry has been directed to promote units that produce eco-friendly bags instead of plastic bags.
The state will also be enforcing the solid waste management rules of the Ministry of Environment and Forests where 5% of the land in industrial parks should be earmarked for waste management and recycling.