Mobilising citizens to eliminate plastic
In September 2017, eCoexist in collaboration with Oikos and the Ecological Society, started to gather a group of citizens to discuss whether and how we could create a city free of single use disposable plastic bags. This effort was in continuation of the UseMeAgain campaign that eCoexist had begun in 2010 to highlight the issue.

Over the last nineteen months, much as happened.

Over 70 citizens are involved in a daily discussion on the matter. In March 2018, the government of Maharashtra declared a ban on single use plastic disposables. This was a major boost to our vision and we did a study of the ban regulation which was sent to the government. We have been exploring alternatives to plastic items and invited emerging entrepreneurs to present new ideas and materials to us. In June 2018 the government refined the ban to adjust the scope and timelines. Following this in Oct 2018, we started to conduct a ground reality survey to see how shops and consumers were responding to the ban.

Our next meeting is to review the results of the survey and discuss steps forward.

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History of the citizens efforts
Pl click on the poster to read more about the discussions at each meet.
     The Citizens met for the first time on 22nd Sept' 2017 at Ecological Society following the government's decision to ban all plastic carry bags by March 2018. The Meet was attended by around 25 people some of whom who were already actively involved in trying to address the situation for the ban. There were discussions around the laws regulating bans in the country and in the state like the Recycled plastics manufacture and management rules 2002, Plastics waste management rules 2011, Maharashtra Non biodegradable Garbage (control) Act, 2006, Maharashtra Plastic carry bag rules 2006.
The Citizens also discussed on the types of plastic bans that exists  and the success of those bans around the world.It was also discussed that for the ban to be successful, the attitude of the people need to change, a behavioral change was needed.  The possible ecofriendly alternatives to plastic bags that already have been proposed by various Ngos were also discussed like saree bags, upcycled bags from used plastic, bags made from multilayered plastic etc and also the challenges in switching to these alternatives. There was also a discussion on the next steps forward. 
The Second Citizens Meet was organised on 14th October 2017 at Ecological Society. In this meeting,  discussion were  around the various stakeholders of the ban like consumers,ngos, small grocers, waste pickers, government, stray animals etc.  Banning plastic bags gives rise to both environmental and economical concerns and it is important to understand the stakeholders involved in order to take steps accordingly.
The UseMeAgain campaign was represented at the Pune Running Beyond Marathon (PRBM) 2017 Expo. Ecoexist set up their stall for showcasing the various alternatives available for plastic bag at the event. During this event several students participated in raising awareness about the issue to the runners in the marathon.
The citizens met the Solid waste management officials of the PMC on 2nd Dec, 2017. Questions were raised  regarding the plastic ban and how they plan to implement it and other issues regarding solid waste management. 
The Third Citizens Meet was organised at Indradhanushya Hall on the 16th Dec 2017.  In the third citizens meeting, Neelesh Inamdar, the founder of Patpert Teknow known for converting plastic to fuel, was invited to present his technology. 
 A newsletter was released after the meet which explored the possibility of recycling plastic bags and also documented the various awareness raising events across the city.
The Fourth Citizens meeting was organised on the 27th Jan' 2018. At the fourth citizens meeting on the plastic bag ban issue, the citizens looked at the efforts on the ground made by the residents of Pimple Saudagar  and also discussed the vision of Sagar Mitra. 

It was also discussed that without community support and a steady supply of alternatives, it will be difficult for the ban to be effective.

Finally, the ban on single use plastic disposables was imposed by the government on the state of Maharashtra on the 23rd of March 2018.

The initial ban regulation was amibitious and vast in its scope. Several environmental Ngos namely Ecoexist, Oikos, Jeevitnadi, Aarohana, Ecological society, Poornam Ecovision, Swach came together to study the ban and offerred a critique to the government with suggestions of how it could be refined. This feedback was sent to the Environment Department in Mumbai.

The following meeting in June 2018 was conducted after a few months of study on what the alternatives to the banned items could be. Divyanshu Pawar, a volunteer with eCoexist put together a study of all available alternatives and how they may fare in terms of availability and costing . At this meeting we also heard a presentation by Harshad Barde on a brand audit for waste collected from the river in Pune.

An experiment was conducted by eCoexist to check the willingness of the consumers to pay for a cloth bag - cheap cloth bags at Rs 20 each were produced and distributed to a network of citizens to promote within their neighbourhoods. It was found that the public was not yet ready to pay even a nominal amount for a cloth bag.

At the sixth citizens meet , we decided that it was time to conduct a survey on the ground to get primary research on the effectiveness of the ban. This survey was begun on the 1st Dec and several colleges, eco clubs and neighbourhood groups came together to help us collect data.
Over forty volunteers have participated in the survey to check how the shopkeepers and public are responding to the ban on single use plastic bags. The survey has been focussed on only one item- which is the plastic carry bag - even though the ban covers several disposable items. Localities across Pune have been covered and the interview was targeted at shopkeepers only. A wide range of shops have been covered by the survey.

Data was collected over a period of two months - December 2018 and January 2019 - and a team of four people worked on the analysis of the data under the guidance of Sonya Sachdeva, a social scientist based in Chicago who volunteered to help with her computational data analysis background. Additional information regarding socio economic status of localities, waste generation etc were added from government sources. A meeting with the volunteers also revealed qualitative information about the perception of the ban.

The results of the survey give us clues on the status of the ban as well as directions we still need to work on.
See below a word cloud generated by the survey to give you a peek into the survey results.
Volunteers Meet of the Plastic bag ban survey
Discussions with the government
Critique on the Ban
The initial reaction to the ban by the industry
Emerging of bioplastics
The buy back mechanism