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Bengaluru is being swept by citizen-led plastic bans

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Plastic bag ban announced – Bangalore Mirror, Jan 2015

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Tired of seeing such headlines over the past few years? The days of no-plastic-carry-bags are not far. While the state government is still sitting on the Plastic Ban draft rules, city neighbourhoods are slowly going plastic-free, led by BBMP and local volunteers.

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Yelahanka was the first zone to impose self-ban on plastic in December 2015. It is not a surprise anymore, when a Reliance Fresh store in Yelahanka places brown paper bags for people who want to carry vegetables from the supermarket.

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Pictures of anti-plastic carry bag drive in Yelahanka, shared by Yelahanka Zone Joint Commissioner Sarfaraz Khan.

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‘Let’s save our environment first’

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Chief Engineer of Yelahanka zone, Parameshwaraiah says: “Ministry of Environment and Forests has already banned plastic below 40 microns. There is also a ban coming up in near future on all kind of single use plastic. Our no-plastic drives are meant to educate people and shop owners beforehand.”

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Plastic waste constitutes 9-10% of the waste collected daily, but contributes a much larger share of problems to the waste management system if not disposed in the right manner. Hence banning plastic is crucial to save the environment, he explains.

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So who all supported the drive? Everybody. “All constituents of the society” – as Parameshwaraiah puts it – the MLA, the corporators, citizens, shopkeepers – almost everyone is trying to do their bit in the anti-plastic campaign in Yelahanka. The resident welfare associations came up with the alternatives to plastic. like Rent-a-bag, buying cloth bags, asking people to bring their own bag etc.

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Tips on how to avoid plastic

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Residents of HSR Layout have listed simple things one can do to support the shopkeepers and eateries in following plastic ban:

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  1. Carry jute/ cloth bags when shopping
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  3. If forgotten, borrow bags from the shops, for a deposit. Remember to return borrowed bags as soon as you can, so it comes back into circulation.
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  5. If bags are not available for borrowing, carry groceries in their basket and empty in your car/bike.
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  7. Dine out instead of taking away food as parcels.
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  9. Choose restaurants that are doing their bit for reducing plastic.
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  11. Get your own container when you want to take home parceled food.
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  13. Keep two-three spare bags in your vehicles and handbags, which will help in case you need to buy something on the go.
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  15. Choose vegetable shops which allow you to carry all vegetables in a big bag together instead of big supermarkets where they wrap each vegetable in a plastic cover.
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The effect of the ban is clearly visible in the Yelahanka New Town ward. Vilas Nandodkar, a resident of the ward, says that he noticed a notice posted in a mall a month ago, that announced the ban. The flower vendors now wrap the flowers in leaves instead of plastic, and everyone is asked to bring their own bags, in almost all the shops. “The ban is a 60% success, but there are still some vendors who seek extra money and give plastic carry bags stealthily,” he adds.

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So how are the plastic manufacturers viewing it? Is there any lobby at work that is opposing it? Parameshwaraiah says there are none. And even if there are, they don’t matter. “No lobby is above the law. Let’s save our environment first, lobby comes next. If people themselves are instrumental in bringing the change, no lobby can do anything,” he reiterates.

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HSR Layout follows the model

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A team of residents under the banner of HSR Citizen Forum were impressed by the way Yelahanka carried out the ban. HSR Layout was the next area to say no to single-use plastic carry bags and cups. The drive initiated by HSR Citizen Forum found support from people’s representatives in the area, HSR Layout residents and RWAs from all seven sectors of HSR Layout. Most of the shopkeepers too offered support.

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MLA of the area Satish Reddy launched the drive on January 3, 2016. A team of 20 volunteers, along with BBMP officials, visited the eateries and shops to spread awareness on the plastic-free drive, till January 15. Sustainable options such as cheaper cloth bag options, option to rent a bag etc were introduced.

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This was followed up by stricter enforcement January 16th onwards, where officials seized plastic bags and cups and fined the violators. 2700 kgs of plastic was seized that day. Citizen volunteers keep a close watch continuously, on the eateries and shops that violate norms and report it to the enforcement authorities. Volunteer teams of HSR layout also explain the importance of the ban in all available opportunities.

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How effective the no-plastic-bag drive has been? “The visible measure is shopkeepers not giving plastic covers. Many shops have put boards asking the customers to bring their own bag or boxes,” says Kavitha Reddy, a citizen activist belonging to HaSiRu Mitra group in HSR Layout.

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In HSR Layout, customers can rent bags if they don’t have one. Vegetable vendors are seen using paper bags. Pic: HSR Citizen Forum

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Can the reduction in plastic waste be quantified? Volunteers say it is possible to do so based on the weight of dry waste reaching collection centres. However, some areas in HSR Layout face problems in door-to-door garbage collection every now and then, which is crucial for quantifying the waste as well as maintaining the system. The team HaSiRu Mitra has written to BBMP seeking a solution to the problem.

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What are the challenges faced? Smita Kulkarni, a volunteer with HSR Citizen Forum, says that even after repeated education and warnings, people are moving to non-woven polypropylene bags. “There is misinformation that it is eco-friendly,” says Smita. Since these bags are not compostable, they end up in dry waste once soiled.

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Many other wards took inspiration from Yelahanka and HSR layout, and started going plastic-free. We tried to track some of them.

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Bellandur ward:

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Volunteers of Bellandur ward (ward 150) worked with BBMP and political representatives to launch banning of single-use plastic. A ‘walkathon’ was organised on February 5th 2016 from Kaikondrahalli lake. MP P C Mohan, MLA Arvind Limbavali and Corporator Asha Suresh joined the walkathon. Around 300 people participated in it.

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Volunteers visited the shops and residences on Sarjapur and Outer Ring Road in three teams, educating them on the reasons on the ban, alternatives to plastic, consequences of not adhering to the ban etc. The enforcement will start from February 21st.

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Bengaluru Central MP PC Mohan joined the anti-plastic campaign in Bellandur ward. Pic: Malini Parmar

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Puttenahalli ward:

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Puttenahalli ward (ward 187) started the no-plastic drive on February 7th 2016, Sunday, with a 1-km walkathon that started from BBMP Corporator’s office. Swachha Puttenahalli movement saw the participation of more than 250 residents from the ward. MLA Satish Reddy, corporator Prabhavathi Ramesh and many solid waste management volunteers participated in the drive.

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Domlur ward:

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Started in mid-December, no-plastic bag drive in Domlur (ward 112) is yet to catch up fully. Shivakumar, a citizen volunteer from Domlur, says that the drive found many takers among the shops, but many supermarkets and small time establishments are yet to catch up. The drive is a 30% success, says Shivakumar. The citizen volunteers are hoping to get more support, as an awareness walkathon will be organised in next few days, along with the people’s representatives and BBMP officials.

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BTM Layout ward:

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In BTM Layout, (ward 176) Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy and BBMP officials including the joint commissioner flagged off the no-plastic-bag drive on February 6th, 2106. The awareness drives will continue till February 20th, 2016. The implementation will be strict February 21st, 2016 onwards.

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The ward has close to 39,000 residents and produces 2,200 kgs of plastic waste a day. Volunteers from BTM Welfare association, Spandana Nagarika Vedike, Rotary Bengaluru, Kannada Sahitya Parishad, Area Suraksha Mitra, police and the BBMP have come together to start the no-plastic drive.

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Vigyan Nagar :

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‘Beautify Basavanagar’ team has been spearheading the plastic carry bag ban in Vigyan Nagar ward (Ward 81), along with waste segregation. The ward with an area of 5.73 sq km, has many distribute layouts. The corporator and his team conducted a walkathon in one area of the ward while the other was covered by the Beautify Basavanagar team. The team wants to help with the drive in the other parts of the ward, by teaming up with other RWAs in the area.

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Padma, a volunteer, says that everybody is fed up with the existing system and wants change. As a result the volunteers who were looked down upon are now being welcomed, she adds. Raids are yet to happen in the area though the enforcement was supposed to start from February 10.

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Koramangala:

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When resident welfare associations in Koramangala wanted to learn how HSR did it, volunteers from HSR layout spoke to them and helped them initiate the process, says Shanthi Tummula, an active volunteer of HSR Citizens Forum. Thus, Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2016, was the day Koramangala area decided to divorce single use plastic bags.

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As the first step, a meeting was held between residents, traders, four corporators in the area, BBMP officials including Joint Commissioner Hemachandra, Executive Engineer, Assistant Engineer etc. The drive started with a walkathon, and awareness campaigns.

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A senior citizen volunteer in Koramangala joins the anti-plastic drive enacting the choking of earth by plastic. Pic: Shanthi Tummala

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Sanjay Nagar:

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This was the first ward a unique experiment called ‘Rent a bag’ had taken place sometime ago. Vigyan Gowda, a resident of Sanjay Nagar who was instrumental in setting up the initiative says that the logistics required a fair amount of manual intervention, the operational costs were high, and inevitably the bags would run out of circulation.

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So in mid-January 2016, the two groups who were managing the initiative in Sanjay Nagar, Janasamanyara Trust and Citizens for Sustainability (CiFoS), rejigged the logistics. A complete ban on plastic on Sanjay Nagar Main Road was implemented, supported by BBMP. Vendors flouting the plastic norms are penalised. Cloth bags are being provided to shops as an alternative.

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The interest that the initiative has garnered is huge. Vignan says he keeps receiving calls from people across the city and country, and even from countries like Canada and Cambodia. “It is evident that plastic is a problem worldwide… More people are realising that and looking to move away from it,” he adds.

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The government has already planned for a complete ban of single use plastic in Karnataka. To support this, according to a Deccan Herald report, the Department of Handlooms and Textiles has planned to manufacture a large number of cloth bags as an alternative to plastic.

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As part of this, the government had directed the Karnataka State Khadi and Village Industries Board (KSKVIB), the Karnataka Handlooms Development Corporation to manufacture, promote and sell cloth bags at subsidised rates. Priyadarshini Handlooms is selling cloth bags in bulk at a discounted price.

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Interested can contact 8447496366 and ask for the contacts in your area.

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Though cloth bags are available for really subsidised price, what comes cheap is not respected, and the bags do not come back in circulation. To fix this problem, Stonesoup.in, a social entrepreneurship team, came up with a new model of borrowing a bag.

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In this model, the stores and shops can buy cloth bags from the team at a fixed cost. These will be rented to customers who need bags, at Rs 20, 30 or 40 depending on the size. People can get their deposit back if they return the cloth bag within the scheduled time. After the scheduled period there will be some interest charged. The shops can return the soiled bags to the Stonesoup team, which will be cleaned and returned to the shops for no extra charge, says Malini Parmar, founder of Stonesoup.in..

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Rajarajeshwari Nagar Zone:

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In Rajarajeshwari Nagar zone, the BBMP conducted an awareness drive against using single-use plastic. The drive that targeted the shops and choultries on January 21st, 2016, educated everyone against using carry bags, in all the 14 wards in the zone.

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Again on February 4th, 2016, the BBMP officials conducted a drive to seize plastic carry bags, cups and other single use stuff. 2255 shops were raided, 114 kgs of plastic bags and 65 kgs of plastic cups were seized, and a fine of Rs 31,000 was collected on the day.

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B M Kaval, Malleshwaram, Gayathri Nagar, Kadu Malleshwara, Aramane Nagar wards are preparing to start the no-plastic drive, with citizens and officials showing interest.

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Recipe for success: Educate, implement, enforce

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Malini Parmar, who worked on a model for no-plastic drive for many wards, says the recipe for success has four ingredients: MLA and corporators, BBMP officials, RWAs and associations and citizen volunteers. The trick is to involve all of the stakeholders, and give sufficient options for the shopkeepers and eateries.

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As the first step, walkathons are conducted to raise awareness. In the next step citizen volunteers will form teams and go door to door educating shops, eateries and people on the ill-effects of single use plastic and asking them to avoid it. Awareness will be spread on segregation of waste too. In some wards, Stonesoup.in, an initiative by Malini Parmar, puts an alternative stall that will showcase all reusable, recyclable alternatives for plastic, including cloth bags and bag-renting options.

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The next phase will be the implementation phase where single use plastic items will be confiscated, and the violators will be penalised.

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“This is one of the campaigns where there is phenomenal success has been achieved with citizen engagement,” Malini says, adding that the drive, unlike the efforts in the past, this time includes continuous engagement with authorities and all stakeholders. Social media is being used as the platform for connecting people and resources online, while actual work in donee on ground, offline, by the citizens in each wards.

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Malini says the drive has been welcomed by all smalltime shopkeepers and street vendors, as they are able to save good amount of money that goes to buying single use plastic stuff.

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What are the alternatives to single use plastic?

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A presentation compiled by 2bin1bag team has listed all alternatives to single use plastic stuff. You can see it here:

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How to start the drive in your area?

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  • Form a team of volunteers.
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  • Gather education material to be used during campaigns.
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  • Reach out to people’s representatives.
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  • Reach out resident welfare associations.
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  • Reach out to commercial associations in the area.
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  • Reach out to BBMP officials for support and enforcement.
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  • Plan the launch, campaign and enforcement dates, assign work among volunteer teams.
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  • Educate and inspire as many as you can.
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  • Watch out for violators and report to BBMP, once the implementation starts.
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  • You can get in touch with Ban Plastic group, for guidance, help and alternative solutions.
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Related Articles

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DMU Timestamp: November 09, 2018 23:10

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