#VinitasPune – Why Think? Make Cloth Bags Your Companion

Cotton Bag
Image used for representation only

The plastic ban has come as a blessing in disguise to break our hazardous habit of asking for plastic bags in shops and adding fuel to the fire! 

Did you know that Pune always had a plastic free oasis and this protected area has been successful for keeping plastic at bay for over 10 years now !

The Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park, popularly called the Katraj Park, where every visitor is checked at the entrance for carrying plastic – no bags, water bottles or any form of plastic is permitted. Wonder why this model has not been replicated to other public parks and hills that Pune is dotted with.

I remember sometime in 2010, Pune had almost become a no-plastic zone, (thanks to a General Body resolution in the Pune Municipal Corporation). Unfortunately, it lasted for three months only! Within that short period, Pune had become a sort of a model city, with a couple of municipal corporations outside Maharashtra taking a leaf from it in an attempt to implement it back home.

Like they say, all good things come to an end and Pune went right back to square one, with the plastic menace raging.

Seven years later, the State Government has now imposed a ban. The ban now prohibits the manufacturing, sale and use of plastic bags, plastic spoons, forks, cups, glasses, containers and so on.

Much like what happened in 2010, the plastic manufacturers have sought legal intervention but whatever may be the outcome,. Yet, irrespective of what may happen in court, there is an imminent need to change our habits at an individual level.

This time around, we are being coerced into using cloth bags and the shop keepers are also pitching in by offering only cloth or paper bags. It is indded heartening to see the change of heart on both sides…

Despicably, there are ‘forwards’ on WhatsApp and other social media, questioning the ban on plastic, the argument being, it is very convenient and that it is an issue of proper recycling rather than ban on its use.

This is a rather myopic stance considering the colossal damage that plastic has already done to our world environment.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and Atlantic Garbage Patch is like a huge plastic bowl floating on the ocean floor. A 2017 study conducted by scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Georgia, concluded that of the 9.1 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950, only 9 per cent got recycled over the years, while another 12 percent was incinerated, leaving 5.5 billion tons of plastic waste littering the oceans and land.

Nearer home, did you know that littering of plastic bags in our city has been equally responsible for flooding during monsoons?

Former BJP Corporator Vikas Matkari, once told me that most of the drainage pipes and nullahs in the city are choked with plastic bags – the reason why the water has hardly any space to flow through and instead floods the surface. He said he found this out when he undertook a campaign of cleaning the nullahs once, before the onset of monsoons.

Every year, citizen organisations and some IT companies undertake cleaning of the Mula-Mutha Rivers and needless to say, plastic forms the major portion of the garbage.

While there are many social organisations that have taken up the making of cloth bags, two Puneites need to be particularly mentioned. Rotarian Surendra Shroff has helped many to earn a livelihood by employing them to make bags of different shapes and sizes out of newspaper.

The Rotary News report quotes Shroff stating that, `we have helped make 40 million paper bags last year (2016) and the project has encouraged reverse migration in areas such as Paud, Roha, etc. People had moved out earlier in search of jobs; many had been engaged in rolling beedis for a living. They have all come back to make paper bags from old newspapers, earning Rs 125–150 a day.”

Manisha Gutman, founder of the social enterprise, eCo-exist, has been involved in various environment-friendly products and projects. She rightly says that single use in any product should not be allowed under any circumstances.

This means that we need to adopt the habit of reusing and creating materials and products that can be reused again and again for a long time.

Her fantastic line of cloth bags with adorable designs on them is a great inspiration to convert to cloth bags. Then, there are several social entrepreneurs who sell plates, spoons and katoris made out of bamboo. So, steadily, market players are getting active to help us in not using plastic in our daily lives.

In my childhood, I remember my mother, dutifully stitching cloth bags out of our old school uniforms. She used to have various sizes of these bags which she was very possessive about.

And of course, when it came to disposable plates, it was banana leaf or patravali made from broad leaves of the Banyan tree, stitched together with dried stems. We can surely get back to those blissful days – all it needs is our own will at the individual level..


# All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. 

Vinita Deshmukh

Vinita Deshmukh

Passion for the written word that comes alive, not only to tell a story, but to speak out loud about all that's good, bad and the ugly in society...

That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.

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Vinita Deshmukh