BMC to crack down on retailers using banned plastic items

INDIA – The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is set to crack down on hawkers, vendors and small-scale retailers for using banned plastic material while carrying out business transactions with customers.

The civic body, along with officials from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Mumbai Police, has formed 24 ward-level teams to take stringent action against retailers using banned plastic items and have maintained that ward-level action would be initiated from August 21 onwards.

According to the civic body’s rules, any plastic packaging item that is less than 50 microns in thickness falls under this banned category of plastic items. Most of the polythene bags that are circulated by retailers fall under this banned category.

The MPCB guidelines also say that the minimum thickness manufacturers should maintain for making plastic bags should be more than 45 microns.

This specification was introduced by the state government’s environment department in 2018 when the usage of single-use plastics was banned.

Meanwhile, to ramp up the action against violators, earlier this month, the BMC floated a proposal to set up a five-member task force at the municipal ward level to act against violators.

These teams will comprise three officials from the ward office and one member each from the MPCB and police.

Sanjog Kabre, deputy municipal commissioner said: “We will start a major crackdown against the violators from August 21 onwards. The team is already being formed in several wards and stringent action will start next week.

“The primary purpose of setting up these teams is to take action against hawkers and small-scale business owners who continue to use these banned items in a major way.”

So far, the civic body has been acting against major commercial establishments which include shops and retail outlets inside shopping malls and plazas.

The officials maintained most of these major establishments have stopped usage of plastic bags and have switched to paper and jute bags.

However, the hawkers and small shops would get away from the punishment as there was a lack of local-level crackdown.

“The idea of initiating the crackdown against these small-scale business owners was mainly floated by MPCB, as they believe the major chunk of banned plastic is being distributed from this sector. Therefore, this time our focus will be cracking down on them,” Kabre said.

It is pertinent to note that following the 2005 deluge, the Chitale committee report had stated that the haphazard dumping of single-use plastics is one of the primary reasons behind the choking of drains and stormwater network of Mumbai.

The BMC is empowered to levy a fine of Rs 5,000 if any violator is caught with banned plastic the first time, Rs 10,000 for the second time and Rs 25,000 for the third time, which may also include an imprisonment period up to three months.

The civic body’s data also state that over the past one year, the BMC had collected Rs 79.3 lakh by seizing nearly 5,285 kg of banned plastic.

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