MUMBAI: Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam today sought to clear the confusion prevailing in the public over the ambit of the plastic ban that came into force on June 23.
Kadam reiterated that non-woven polypropylene plastic bags are completely banned while time is given for setting up plants to recycle other types of plastic material being used for packing and wrapping.
"The thermocol material used for decoration is not banned but dishes, spoons and food plates made from thermocol are banned. It clearly means the fish vendors who use thermocol for storage are exempted from it (ban)," the minister told reporters.
He said the decision on usage of thermocol for decoration will be taken by a high power committee.
"Thermocol producers should have given a thought to its production earlier as it cannot be recycled," the minister said.
Thermocol is largely used in decoration during Ganesh festival.
Fish vendors in Mumbai use thermocol boxes for storage of fish.
Confusion was prevailing in the public over usage of thermocol and other plastic items after the ban was announced.
"The ban on plastic bags is going to be helpful to fishermen because 40% of their total catch is actually plastic items thrown into the sea. The plastic parts are also recovered from the stomach of fishes at times. With this wide-spread ban, there will be less plastic items dumped into the sea and it will not be hazardous to marine life," Kadam said.
The minister clarified that fish and meat buyers will now have to carry their own boxes.
"All you have to do is to change your habit. Instead of going empty handed (to meat vendors' shops), you should carry your own box. The habits should be changed for the future generations," he added.
Kadam also took a dig at Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray after his party workers put up a board criticising the plastic ban outside Shiv Sea president Uddhav Thackeray's residence in suburban Bandra.
It is also emerged that Uddhav Thackeray's son Aditya was behind the plastic ban concept.
"It seems an uncle (Raj Thackeray) is afraid of his nephew (Aaditya). Had they (MNS) approached me before putting up the board, I would have explained them the plastic ban.
"I took the decision almost nine months in advance, held meetings and took people into confidence. If someone is deliberately creating hurdles in good initiatives, it is wrong and unwarranted," Kadam said.
He said Raj Thackeray should visit the Worli exhibition and personally find out what type of plastic is banned.
"He (Raj Thackeray) does nothing but only makes noise," the Shiv Sena leader said.
The ban prescribes Rs 5,000 fine for the first-time offenders and Rs 10,000 for the second-time offenders. Those who violate the ban for the third time will face a fine of Rs 25,000, along with a three-month imprisonment.
Explaining the rationale behind Rs 5,000 fine, which many feel is steep, the minister said the government wanted the fine to act as a deterrent.
"Earlier the fine amount was minimal, hence no one was taking it seriously. The fine amount is increased so that it acts as a deterrent," he said.
When asked about the plastic material being used for packing by e-commerce companies, Kadam said, "I have given them three-month time. They should come up with some recycling plants to get further clearances. Till then, these companies can use plastic for wrapping".
On March 23, the state government had imposed a ban on manufacturing, use, sale, distribution and storage of plastic materials such as one-time-use bags, spoons, plates, PET and PETE bottles and thermocol items.
The government had given three months time for the disposal of the existing stocks.
The government had earlier said that all kinds of plastic bags, irrespective of their thickness, tea cups, glasses, thermocol glasses, thermocol used for decoration, plastic used in hotels to parcel food like boxes, spoons have been banned.