FREE PAPER BAGS will destroy the planet. Mandate carrying own bags or paying for them!

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Dear Prime Minister,

We seek your immediate intervention in the light of a recent ruling with grave implications for not just the entire country, but the planet. The Chandigarh Consumer Forum has directed Bata India to provide free paper bags to customers, a ruling that may provide a short-term convenience to the consumer but is not in the best interest of the environment. The ruling has already set in motion a country-wide debate, with too many customers demanding free bags from too many vendors, setting the stage for an environmental disaster irrespective of whether the bags are plastic or paper.

Our plea to you is to immediately mandate a law which establishes the following as common practice— CARRY YOUR OWN BAGS OR PAY FOR BAGS YOU CONSUME. This is the only sensible, sustainable way – adopted by many environment-conscious countries – to mitigate the problem of environmental damage in the larger interest of the country rather than short-term benefits of individual convenience or cost-saving:

A.      All consumers across the country must be advised to carry their own reusable bags – just as earlier generations did! Stores may be encouraged to offer discounts to those who bring their own bags; this can have a big impact.

B.      If consumers do not have bags, reusable bags may be provided by vendors, BUT at cost.

C.      Reusable bags shall mean sturdy bags of cloth/jute/canvas or such long-lasting yet biodegradable materials. Reusable bags shall not be made of plastic (of any thickness), nwpp/nonwoven polypropylene fibre bags (which are also plastic though peddled as an eco-friendly alternative) nor paper (which depletes tree resources).

Reasons for this plea:

1.       Paper is not the solution. Paper is biodegradable yet cannot be considered eco-friendly; unchecked usage depletes trees, wastes resources of water, electricity, etc. to produce and transport them; paper bags are rarely recycled adding to mixed waste problems.

2.       Plastic bags continue to flourish even in cities where banned. PLEASE BAN PLASTIC & NWPP BAGS  of all microns countrywide, with hefty fines for manufacturing, stocking or using these across the country. Millions of tons of waste from single-use packaging creates two problems for our cities - of wasted resources in manufacture/transport and of improper disposal leading to land, air & water pollution harming humans & animals, especially cows.

3.       Societal habit shift of carrying own bags requires a systemic push; please provide our country with this much-needed guidance that will bring us closer to Swachh Bharat, with bags at cost plus the recommendation of discounts for carrying own bags:

i.      Stores that have moved from plastic to paper bags report huge increases in consumption of paper-bags, if given free. Customers do not value free bags - usage as high 20+ bags per customer for individual vegetable purchase.

ii.    Bags MUST be charged, whether they are paper or any other, given they have a definite resource cost, which must be shared with consumers in order for them to better value the resource. Charging will immediately curb consumption and benefit the environment, a key party in this decision, not just consumers or retailers! The Chandigarh ruling stated that if the party had a concern for the environment, they should give free paper bags, whereas giving free paper bags actually demonstrates low regard for long-term damage to trees and poor concern for environment

Help us put the onus to save the earth back where it belongs – on us, the consumers. We must do our bit for Swachh Bharat and for a greener planet, and stop thinking about consumer convenience or cost-saving alone.

(Beautiful Bengaluru is a citizen initiative working for a clean, green, safe city and greener planet).

#SwachhBharat   #SaveThePlanet   #ZeroWaste   #SaveTrees  #BYOC

#BeautifulBengaluru   #BeTheChange