As many cities around the world debate how they can reduce plastic waste pollution, the Indian state of Maharashtra has implemented one of the farthest reaching plastic bans in the world. Environmentalists everywhere are now watching to see if it will work.
In early June, Maharashtra — which is home to Mumbai, India’s largest city — banned single use plastics, including bags, disposable food containers, spoons, forks, and packaging. According to a study by the U.N., plastic packaging makes up almost half of all plastic pollution worldwide and much of it is thrown away within minutes of its first use.
An editorial on News 18’s website notes that while many businesses and corporations have protested the ban, regular Mumbaikars have largely embraced it. “People have started carrying their own tiffin boxes to fish and meat markets, housing societies have hung notifications asking residents to discard the use of plastic garbage bags, everyone is somehow dealing with their dripping wet umbrellas in the monsoon, and trying to use cloth bags (despite the rains) for their grocery shopping,” the outlet noted.
Many believe that part of the reason for the quick adaption by the public was in large part because of extreme frustration about the amount of trash in India. NPR recently reported that an increasing number of citizens are working on raising awareness of the harm plastic, and the burning of plastic materials, has on both public health and the environment.
“I feel the stench. Sometimes we can see the smoke, too. When plastic burns, it’s carcinogenic. Fire breaks out on a dump that is not treated well,” environmental activist Vandana Trivedi told NPR. Trivedi was inspired to become an anti-garbage advocate after seeing the damage Mumbai’s Deonar dumping ground was doing to her neighborhood. The Deonar dump is one of the biggest in Asia.
Maharashtra’s plastic ban follows similar — though not as extensive — bans in other regions across India. The southern state of Karnataka officially prohibited plastic bags two years ago and 23 other states have some form of ban in place. But while plastic usage comes with often-stringent fines and other penalties, both enforcement and awareness of the bans are frequently inconsistent.