Can we get people to agree?

UseMeAgain is a campaign to encourage the reuse of cloth bags to replace plastic carry bags. This campaign was initiated by eCoexist in 2010 - the last time the Maharashtra government promised to implement a ban on plastic bags. For the past seven years eCoexist has been trying to establish a sustainable supply chain of reusable alternatives. This year, once again, the government is making a similar promise and we have brought together a number of citizens to discuss this promise and what it could mean for our city of Pune.

On Sat 2nd Dec, the team was invited to attend a meeting hosted by the National Society for Clean Cities which regularly meets with the Pune Municipal Corporation Solid Waste Management officials.

Among various SWM issues discussed at this meeting the point about the Plastic Bag Ban was also discussed. We asked for clarity on what the PMC had done about the ban since it was first announced in 2006.
Later on Monday the 4th Dec, we also had a chance to have a more in depth conversation with the SWM team.

Some of the questions raised were as follows:


1. In accordance to your promise to ban plastic bags by March 2018, what steps have you taken towards it so far?

As per the 2006 notification, we have been penalising people who are selling or distributing bags below 50 microns. A charge has been levied on the bags above 50 microns and this has already reduced the quantum of bags been distributed.  We are not yet clear on what the details of the 2018 ban would be - proposals are being drafted and discussed and pros and cons of the scope of the ban are still under discussion


2. What will be your next steps towards it? What is your budget? How will you spread awareness regarding the ban? Would there be a brand ambassador for the ban in Pune? Would there be any corporate tie ups for this?

The Environment Department for State and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board are the authorities that decide the scope of the ban and how it should be implemented. The Pune Municipal Corporation is an implementing agency that has limited authority. We are not yet clear on the details of the ban as they are still open to debate.

3. What issues/ hurdles are you facing in preparing for the ban?

Citizens cooperation is a major concern. The current rule to charge rs 5 to Rs 15 for plastic carry bags is being implemented only by big retailers and malls. Sweet shop owners, small vendors, food joints etc are still not following the rules.
If a shop owner refuses to pay the fine there is little that we can do as we can only prosecute them after the third fine of 25000 has been paid.


4.What problems do you anticipate after the ban is placed? What precautionary steps are you taking to avoid them? Do you have an idea of what will replace plastic carry bags - alternatives and can we help you create a supply chain of cloth bags?


Curbing the plastic manufacturing is not under PMC authority. It comes under the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s authority. So illegal supply could be one issue.


5. What is the criteria for amount of penalty? Will it be a fixed amount or will it depend on the quantity of plastic found?

Currently as per the notification, the first offence is fined Rs 5,000, the second offence: 10,000 and the third offence: Rs 25,000 following which there is prosecution and then 3 months imprisonment. Usually after the first fine we dont find them breaking the rule for the second or third time.


6. Which government organisation will be using the money collected as penalty and for what?  


The money goes in government treasury. Confiscated bags are shredded and converted to fuel.


Citizens involvement


9. Do you have enough manpower to check, report and collect penalty? Would you be involving citizens for this?


A squad of 8 members is currently designated for this and the Deputy Sanitary Inspector  of particular ward can also take action against offenders. The citizens can ensure that they follow the rules by discussing with them and making them understand the problems caused by plastic bags.


10. Where can the citizens report if someone is violating the ban? Can they also be involved / volunteer for checking and collecting fines?

A list of the DSIs for each ward is available and they can be informed via whatsapp of the stores that continue to supply plastic bags. ( see list below )


11. How else can the citizens be involved in this? Can they volunteer for awareness programmes?  Are you also looking at tying up with other corporates for this?

Some of the steps that citizens can take are as follows:

  • They can contact the Nagarbasti department (keeps track of all Self Help Groups)  in PMC office to give a push to SHGs for making alternatives to plastic bags

  • They can report any offender to concerned ward DSI. (List of phone numbers of DSI will be shared)

  • They can write to environment ministry for proposal of ban/ loopholes in current ban.

  • They should download Swachhata MoHUA app and report offences/ garbage. The location of the photo sent will be sent automatically

  • They can help spread awareness of this ban to other citizens in their areas.

  • They can send us a list of volunteers area wise that will help the enforcement squad in case of difficult/stubborn offenders.  


From our conversations this is what we understood are the major hurdles that the PMC faces in implementing the plastic bag ban. The drafting of the regulations are not specific enough to enable the PMC to take strict action and hence the ban is not very effective.

  • The police department is unable to help them as there is no IPC directive under which the police can take action against the offender.

  • The statement of the law says that only bags with a D handle (carrier bags/jhabla bags) under 50 micron are banned. Bags of other shape under 50 micron cannot be confiscated.

  • Small vegetable vendors are unable to give fine as they do not have that much money, so they are let off with a warning after their bags get confiscated. When someone refuses to pay the ban there is little the PMC can do as they are only allowed to prosecute a three time offender.

  • The PMC SWM division does not have authority over manufacturers of plastic and hence cannot stop them - this has to be handled by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.

    In our second meeting with the PMC we also proposed that a bright and impactful poster be designed for all shop keepers to put in their stores - this can be mandatory for the shop keepers and vegetable vendors and can help them convince clients who keep asking for a bag. Our team will be designing this poster for the PMC who can print and distribute it to all shop owners. It can also be offerred by all citizens to their own areas shops.

Contact details of the enforcement squad:

Mrs. Nanda B Pratap - 9689938502
Mr Nagavade Sandeep - 9834513687

If you would like to volunteer to assist the squad in your own neighbourhood please send us your contact details at [email protected]
On Sunday 3rd Dec an event was organised at the Roseland Residency society in Pimple Saudagar to discuss the pros and cons of a plastic bag ban and to brainstorm on how this could be implemented by the community for themselves. The corporator for the area, Nana Kate was invited to attend as well as representatives of several societies. Some of the shop keepers who have already adopted the ban were also present and a lively discussion took place on the possibility of creating a plastic bag free zone in Pimple Saudagar.

Roseland Residency is already very well organised as regards to waste management and other environmental issues and the residents decided that by the 1st Jan they would manage to stop all plastic bag distribution in the area. Along with the cooperation of the local offficials and the retailers this seems like a realistic goal.
The Media plays a big role in spreading the message - news paper articles mould the perception of readers to believe that either change is possible or it is difficult to achieve. Roseland Society had invited two major newspapers from their locality to cover the event and this led to substantial coverage in the Hindustan Times and Sakal.
One of the approaches to changing the way people see a cloth bag and use it, is to create a thing of beauty out of it. When the users themselves are involved in creating the product they have a different relationship and association with it.

eCoexist has been organising workshops for children and adults to paint their own cloth bags. This is a fun and creative way to introduce the topic to young minds and to get them involved in a discussion around cloth bags.

On the 7th Dec a similar workshop was held for residents of Mumbai at the Kamalnayan Bajaj Art Gallery in Nariman Point. This was part of an artshow by Rachna Toshniwal, ane environmentalist and artist. The workshop was conducted by Meera Dabir. Several members of an NGO called Atma Vallabh attended and we spoke to them about how to make and paint cloth bags. During the sessions we discussed the issues around plastic bags and also showed them how they could create a livelihood out of making of cloth bags.
Catch up with us.. the links below will help you read about the campaign activities you may have missed...
Notes from session 1
Notes from session 2
Notes on awareness activities
Survey on plastic usage
UseMeAgain abroad
Join the campaign
Alternatives to plastic bags