The directive to ban polythene bags in prominent cities of the state of Madhya Pradesh from 1st May (which has now been delayed for a few days) has been having mixed reactions from the citizens. We have become so used to this all-purpose material that imagining daily chores without polythene is extremely difficult. Right from the basic vegetables, milk etc. to almost every conceivable commodity is packed and parcelled in plastic bags. These humble-looking plastic bags have some really helpful characteristics that other packaging materials fail to provide. These are water-proof, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are compact and highly cost effective. However, the over-usage and improper disposing of plastic bags are now taking a toll on the environment. The rate at which plastic bags are produced and used irresponsibly is alarming. So the ban on polythene bags is not completely misplaced or ill-timed. But we are too used to the material to stop using it today. Why is that so?
While only some of us may be sellers, all of us are customers. And though most of us, sellers and buyers, may be willing to look for options, the will is not strong enough or not complimented by others. And we find the easiest way out, blame others.
What the shopkeepers say:
- People ask for plastic bags so it is offered. One cannot lose a customer over a plastic bag.
- Plastic can be used for everything, liquid or solid and hence saves the trouble of having different types of packing materials.
- Other options are not cost effective.
- Alternatives are not easily available.
What the buyers say:
- Shopkeepers should stop giving it.
- It’s convenient.
Travel back in time
So while citizens and government plan about how to deal with the dreaded ban, I have something interesting in mind. I am thinking of traveling back in time. A time when plastic had not become an indispensable part of our daily lives. For those can’t imagine a time like that, let me assure you that it existed. And it was a great time. Simple practices followed during that time were not only cost-effective and eco-friendly; they were also not harmful to health.
So now that we have to learn to live without polythene bags, let us recall the simple things we did in golden days and put them into practice again.
- Stop asking for polythene bags. You will be amazed how easily you can manage without them in a few days.
- Take a bag when you step out for grocery. Make it a habit.
- Carry foldable compact cloth or carry bags in your purses for those impulsive or last minute purchases. Keep a spare one in your car’s glove box or scooter’s storage compartment. (Time to buy those stylish cloth bags).
- Ask for paper packing bags. Or carry your own small paper bags for dry merchandise.
- Take containers when you are going to buy liquids like milk or curd. Air-tight, spill-proof containers (like Tupperware) come handy to carry small amounts of liquids.
- Do not take tea or juices in plastic bags to take away. Not only is it unhygienic, it is also harmful for health. Use paper cups or reusable food grade bottles.
Breaking a habit is difficult. Developing a new one is almost impossible. In this case, we have to do both. But we are not left with a choice. Enough has already been said about the harmful effects of plastic. Instead of waiting for a ban to be forced upon us, let us decide to be proactive and shun the use of plastic.