Say No to Plastic Bags!

[Photo taken from here]

The importance of banning plastic bags cannot be stressed enough. But while the authorities tie themselves up in knots debating on the consequences, we as citizens can do our little bit for a greener Bangalore.

Even if plastics cannot be completely done away with, you can always minimise its use. And it is best to take upon yourself the onus of spreading awareness about avoiding plastics. And before you know it, you will have others imitating you! I wanted to share a few things with you all- little things I have been following, which have resulted in persuading people around me to avoid plastics.

— Always, and I mean always, take your own shopping bag with you when you go out shopping. You could also keep a couple of bags in your vehicle. The catch-line is “Get your own bag!”

— When the shopkeeper makes a move to put what you have bought into plastic bags, say no, thank you, and explain why. You could say something like, “I have my own bag. I want to avoid plastic, you see – it is not good for the environment”. It’s even better if the customers can also hear you. It might seem awkward at first, but it gets very easy and conversational later on. Sometimes, a customer even nods appreciatively and strikes up a conversation about plastics and the environment – and the other customers are drawn in with or without their will – and that’s a good thing! Even if a tiny little seed is planted in even one person’s head, you have done your good deed of the day!

— If you see your friends/relatives/neighbours/maid using plastic bags in excess, then you could tell them directly, or casually in conversation. For example, when they offer you something in plastic bags, decline the bag, and explain why. Explain. That is the key.

— The best thing is to teach children to avoid plastics. Tell your kids, your nieces/newphews, the kids next door. Kids understand it much better, and once they do, you have a convert for life! Also, once an idea takes root in their little heads, they are equally good at convincing their elders :)

— Ah, forgetfulness! It might happen that you forget to take along a shopping bag. Then if you are forced to accept a plastic bag at a shop, then avoid taking another bag at the next shop you stop at. Try to fit it all into the first bag.

The power of the above actions cannot be taken too lightly. I have seen, with delight, my friends and relatives start avoiding plastics, and telling others too. It does spread, slowly but surely.

[This list, of course, is only with regard to plastic bags, the major polluting factor. Please do add to the list!]

Here’s to a plastic free Bangalore! :)

12 Comments so far

  1. Arun (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 6:21 pm

    Nice post Shruthi. Like you say, we should all strive to do our bit first and things would automatically fall in place.


  2. Ajay (unregistered) on August 19th, 2006 @ 12:46 pm

    Nice post. A question about garbage disposal. We have a garbage pickup truck that comes to each house and expects us to keep the garbage outside our house and they pick it up. We have no choice but to use plastic. Wonder if there is any other choice…


  3. Deepak (unregistered) on August 19th, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

    Yes! Perfect Shruthi, These kind of movements should start from within and spread to others.

    Good post


  4. Shruthi (unregistered) on August 20th, 2006 @ 12:29 pm

    Arun, Deepak, Thank you! Like they say, believe in the Power of One ;)

    Ajay, Thank you. Yes, that is a valid point that you have raised. But if you are really insistent, there is a way around that too. For example, my parents keep the dustbin itself near the gate, and the person in charge of the garbage pickup cart empties the contents into the cart, and keeps the dustbin back near the gate. The dustbin is rinsed, dried, and reused.
    This is much more difficult if everybody in the house goes out to work. But you can get around it by having two dustbins.[Sometimes the dustbin itself gets stolen, so make sure you have a pathetic-looking dustbin] ;)
    So basically, yes, it is a lot of trouble, but like I said, if you really make up your mind, there is a way around everything!


  5. rubic_cube (unregistered) on August 20th, 2006 @ 8:05 pm

    Not everything mentioned above is implementable. The answer is a mixed strategy. There are places where plastics are inevitable. There are places where plastics can be avoided. A sample of scenarios…

    Avoidable: Grocery items like vegetables, fruits etc
    Unavoidable: Supermarkets like Subhiksha, Fabmall, BigBazaar etc.

    In medical stores, they do give medicines in paper pouches whenever possible. Sometimes, they give a plastic cover to hold the cover because the pouch cannot be held by itself. So, there are times when you cannot avoid.

    The answer does not lie in banning plastic altogether. The answer lies in controlling its circulation and disposal. Very strict laws need to be implemented for plastic disposal. Someone found defaulting should not be jailed, but fined heavily, and the news published in the media.

    There are some bio-degradable plastics available. The government should agree to fund such industries in the interest of the environment so that the products can be subsidised for public use. These plastics are not yet in widespread use because they are expensive.

    Also, spreading the message the way you are proposing amounts to more ridicule, which I am sure, not many will be able to take. There should be better ways to spread the message. We should not refuse when someone is giving us things in plastic. But we can tell them that they can use paper pouches next time. On our part, we have to set an example by giving stuff in paper bags and pouches.

    Making children agree to not accepting plastic is unrealistic. So many things that they use are of plastic. There is only so much that can be done to avoid plastic in their scenario.

    Also, enviro conscious stuff are not that cheap. You and I know it. And our children study in schools that are not always “international schools” or schools like Baldwins or Bishop Cottons. The parents of some of these children may not be from high income group. These parents may not be able to afford everything that is enviro friendly (reason why subsidy should be brought into effect).

    Just some of thoughts on the above…


  6. Shruthi (unregistered) on August 20th, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

    RC, interesting thoughts! Thank you.

    My thoughts on your comments —

    RC – Not everything mentioned above is implementable. The answer is a mixed strategy. There are places where plastics are inevitable. There are places where plastics can be avoided.

    S – I agree with you on this. Plastic bags cannot be done away with totally, that is for sure. Suggesting so would be impractical! But the use of plastic bags can definitely be cut down – no doubt about that.

    RC – A sample of scenarios…
    Avoidable: Grocery items like vegetables, fruits etc
    Unavoidable: Supermarkets like Subhiksha, Fabmall, BigBazaar etc.

    S – I don’t agree with you that it is not unavoidable in Subhiksha, Fabmall, etc. I carry shopping bags with me to these places, and I fill up my bag with whatever I have bought. I don’t see why you think it cannot be done. Could you explain, please?

    RC – In medical stores, they do give medicines in paper pouches whenever possible. Sometimes, they give a plastic cover to hold the cover because the pouch cannot be held by itself. So, there are times when you cannot avoid.

    S – But you don’t need a plastic cover if you have a shopping bag with you.

    RC – The answer does not lie in banning plastic altogether. The answer lies in controlling its circulation and disposal. Very strict laws need to be implemented for plastic disposal. Someone found defaulting should not be jailed, but fined heavily, and the news published in the media.

    There are some bio-degradable plastics available. The government should agree to fund such industries in the interest of the environment so that the products can be subsidised for public use. These plastics are not yet in widespread use because they are expensive.

    S- Well put, RC. I agree with you totally.

    RC – Also, spreading the message the way you are proposing amounts to more ridicule, which I am sure, not many will be able to take.

    S – Do you think so? :) I, for one, in 15 years of spreading the message this way, haven’t felt any such vibes of ridicule. (And I am a very sensitive person that way ;)). On the contrary, I have heard from other sources, people talking about this little initiative in a positive way. I could give you examples, if you want, but this is not the right forum for that.

    RC – There should be better ways to spread the message.

    S – Yes, I am sure there are better ways!

    RC – We should not refuse when someone is giving us things in plastic. But we can tell them that they can use paper pouches next time. On our part, we have to set an example by giving stuff in paper bags and pouches.

    S – But why shouldn’t we refuse? I am not asking you to refuse the material ;)) – just don’t take the cover! [Up to a practical point, of course].
    And yes, by us using paper bags, etc., we can make our actions speak louder than our words.

    RC – Making children agree to not accepting plastic is unrealistic. So many things that they use are of plastic. There is only so much that can be done to avoid plastic in their scenario.

    S – Again, I don’t agree! Could you tell me, unrealistic in what way? Btw, my ten year old cousin now has very clear ideas about plastic, and due to him, so do all his friends, and hence their parents. And again, I am not saying that plastics should be banned entirely. We are talking about plastic bags here, specifically.

    RC – Also, enviro conscious stuff are not that cheap. You and I know it. And our children study in schools that are not always “international schools” or schools like Baldwins or Bishop Cottons. The parents of some of these children may not be from high income group. These parents may not be able to afford everything that is enviro friendly (reason why subsidy should be brought into effect).

    S – Again you raise a valid point. In fact, inexpensive enviro conscious stuff is the need of the hour. Actually I discourage paper covers too, because of the number of trees that are cut down to facilitate that!
    But when I talk about shopping bags, it can be cloth bags, which are very cheap. Or it can be a sturdy plastic bag (see, I am not against plastic ;)), which last for years….

    I am glad you raised these points, RC. Food for further thought. If you don’t agree with any of the above clarifications, you can shoot them down ;) – further discussion would be enlightening.


  7. silkboard (unregistered) on August 21st, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

    RC/Shruthi, nice discussion.

    Once plastic (I mean thin variety – that goes into making those gricery bags) gets banned, we will all find our ways to live without it. We all did carry our shopping bags to the stores before the attack of plastic began at all these grocery stores (early 80s?), didn’t we?

    A roundabout way to ban plastic bags would be to collect a “recycling” tax from shoppers who opt to carry out their loot in plastic bags. The ones who bring their bags, or go for recycled paper, dont get charged this tax.

    And BTW, they teach enviro science and stuff at junior schools now. A kid in my neighborhood (11 year old) did a project on recycling, I was surprised to see him study all that.


  8. Viky (unregistered) on August 21st, 2006 @ 6:08 pm

    Good discussion, so far.

    I once lambasted the guy at Shopper’s Stop, because he did not give me a paper cover for my goods. He said he did not have them. I threatened to leave behind what I had shopped, and cancel my First Citizen membership, and had him fish around the mall and get me a paper cover.

    Maybe I was a wee bit Grahak Jaago that day, because he said he did not have a paper cover.

    Major establishments do have that option. Wills Lifestyle, Levis, Peter England, Allen solly, Zodiac….come to think of it, even Titan gives you a thick cardboard carry-away, complete with a string handle. And it looks cool. I use it home to stuff my mail and monthly bills before sorting them at the end of the month.

    And yes, awareness is increasing. The Foodworldesque supermarket where I buy provisions blatantly refuses covers. If you dont have one, he says he will happily stuff your car boot with the loose items. Its only when you say you are in a two-wheeler and have no one to carry the items in pillion does he bring out a plastic cover. And if he remembers you not bringing a bag twice, he makes no bones of saying it aloud in front of everyone “Kya saabji, last time bhi nahi laaye they“. That makes sure you take a bag the next time.


  9. Shruthi (unregistered) on August 21st, 2006 @ 11:15 pm

    Silkboard, Good idea. In fact, there are a couple of shops which give you a 5% discount if you take your own bag.
    Great to hear about kids being taught that stuff in school. I, personally, cannot be happier :)

    Viky, aka Jagaa-hua-Graahak, that is a nice story :)
    Yup, those paper bags like the one you mention are very cool indeed. They even look very good!
    And about your supermarket – that’s a pleasant surprise – I did not think that it has caught on in such a big way.


  10. sink party (unregistered) on August 29th, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

    I agree with the point – that it starts with me. I always try to carry a bag to the market and have one in the car/bike so that i could use it when needed. What bugs me is the fact that readymade garments – shirts especially come with a lot of plastic and pins : which are thrown once the garment is unpacked. sheer waste. its time this was reduced. I counted 12 pins plastics- thick and flimsy, cardboard.


  11. Shruthi (unregistered) on August 30th, 2006 @ 10:42 am

    Sink Party, That’s good to hear… and you are totally right about shirts using excess plastic. In fact in a lot of places, things are wrapped in plastic within plastic within plastic… even when it is not leaky foodstuff or anything of that sort…. I wonder what the whole point is!


  12. Undisclosed Identity (unregistered) on September 4th, 2006 @ 4:16 pm

    If you don’t know, paper is recycled these days. Paper is NOT as big a problem as plastic is. Even in plastic, if we could avoid using thinner ones, we are much better.

    Nonetheless, it is ugly to see plastic (not just plastic) strewn around every corner you go in india. Is it in our culture to be so indisciplined about waste management or is it that we have gotten quite lazy after independence!



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