The city of Mumbai banned single-use plastic items on Monday, making it the largest city in India to do so, according to The Guardian.
Enforcement of the regulation will be strict, with up to a 25,000 rupee fine, equivalent to about 367 dollars, and a three-month jail sentence for repeat offenses. Businesses including McDonald’s and Starbucks have already faced fines, with council inspectors posted throughout the city to enforce the rules.
The ban is in place for entire state of Maharashtra, and applies to items ranging from bags, cutlery, and plates, to foam takeout containers. The state generates as much as 1,200 metric tons of plastic waste daily, with 500 tons coming from the city of Mumbai alone. Much of this waste ends up in the ocean, where it presents a threat to marine ecosystems.
One local resident, Kamlash Mohan Chaudhary, told The Guardian:
“For the pollution situation it’s fine to do this but for the people it is a big problem. People here carry everything in plastic bags.”
Chaudary says he has begun to carry a cloth bag, and that his meat vendor started using newspaper to wrap mutton instead of plastic sheets. Citizens have reported difficulty finding affordable alternatives to plastic, despite a willingness to comply with the ban. Some reports have accused local inspectors of exploiting public confusion over the ban to extract money from businesses. Other reports claim that the inspectors are themselves confused about the rules of the ban, handing out fines for items that are actually permitted.
Yet, from an environmental perspective, such a measure is overdue. Of the 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste the world has generated, most of it will take 450 years or more to disintegrate. Half of all plastic created has been produced over the past 13 years, and single-use plastic products account for about half of that figure.
While India uses less than half the global average, only 11 kilograms annually per capita compared with 109 in the US, a 2015 study suggested the country has some of the worst plastic waste management in the world. Plastic waste is a highly visible presence in the streets of many Indian cities and in beach areas.
Earlier in June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022.