Plastic woes

Plastic woes campaigners who waged a pitched battle against the proliferating plastic menace in this tourist state are left holding tonnes of plastic. They now pin their hopes on the changes in the law that could help tackle this problem. The government is planning to pass a law banning plastic bags below 100 microns in thickness from early June. We hope that this will help solve the problem. Each bag of this thickness would cost Rs 5-10. So people would either reuse these bags or avoid using them,' says Mahalaxmi Bhobe, project officer with the Plastic Free Goa campaign. She concedes that the current law banning plastic bags below 20 microns has been largely ineffective.

Patricia Pinto, a campaigner with the People's Movement for Civic Action who was recently elected as the municipal councillor of Panaji says that cleaning-up operations are of no use, if there are no checks on their speedy proliferation. Today, there is so much of plastic all over that regardless of how many clean-up operations are undertaken, these won't be enough.

"During our campaign we took several plastic reprocessors to the site, but none of them appeared to be interested. Since the government has banned plastic bags below 20 microns, plastic waste that was earlier recycled to produce coloured polybags is now no longer in demand,' says Bhobe.

As the residents stepped up their campaign, the Goa government then offered to ban bags below 20 microns thickness. But this has made little difference. In fact, manufacturers have found a novel way of "hoodwinking' the enforcement authorities. The dealers are openly selling those bags with their surface bubbled or corrugated. The goal is simply to deceive the micrometer gauge which would show the bags as being above 20-micron in thickness, even though the effective thickness was much less.

Campaigners have now called on Goa's tourism department to involve hoteliers, shack-owners, restaurant owners and tour operators and share the responsibility for the clean-up. Beaches need special dustbins for plastic bottles and litter. Incidentally, plastic bottles form a significant part of Goa's plastic woes. Plastic bottles should have a buy-back scheme so that rag-pickers have an incentive to collect them. Glass bottles should be used, suggest the campaigners, unless manufacturers prove they have the capacity to handle plastic waste.

Meanwhile, some of Goa's village panchayats (Village council) have passed a resolution asking for a ban on plastics. "The main lesson we learnt was that there is no

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