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News Stardom : kolkata, 1st July 2022.  The state government has decided to ban plastic carry bags below 75 microns from 1st. July 2022 Production and possession of plastic carry bags below 75 microns is going to be a punishable offence. If a shopkeeper is found to be handing over products in single use plastic carry bags, he will be fined and the buyer will also be fined. Though several such initiatives were taken up in the past, the carrot and stick policy of the administration failed to dissuade people from using single use plastic. But this time The State Government has decided to shun the carrot and adopt only the stickto put a curb on the use of single use plastics. But it was important to find alternatives before banning the cheap and handy single use plastic carry bags.

At the same time, it was imperative to see how the citizens would react to such a move. So, a pilot project was floated by the Newtown Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) in collaboration with Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritagein Newtown’s CB Block. Under this project the CB block community market was chosen and within 24 months it was to be turned into a plastic free market. At first all the shopkeepers, street vendors,customers and people living in the adjacent blocks were sensitized. Seminars were conducted for shopkeepers and street vendors. Door to door awareness program was run for the residents. 2313 Families living around CB market were provided with cloth bags free of cost. Eco-friendly plastic alternative carry bags made from vegetable starch were introduced in the market. The eco-friendly carry bags degrade in ninety days. Along with eco-friendly carry bags, brown paper packets and clay pots were also introduced for use in grocery stores and sweet shops. Before the project was initiated CB community market used to produce 168 kg plastic waste every month. Now the monthly consumption of single use plastic carry bags has come down to two to three kgs only. The project so far has stopped 1660kg plastic from contaminating the environment.

With the help of the friendly shopkeepers and well aware residents, the project became successful within three months from the day it was rolled out. In the initial phase the additional cost of the eco-friendly items was subsidized by NKDA but the subsidy was phased out within a time frame of 11 months and the subsidy now is shouldered by the shopkeepers who can charge customers for the same. Being sustainable in form the project has become a source of alternative income for women of eight different Self Help Groups also. The SHG members are making the brown paper packets and selling them directly to the shopkeepers. Thus, the direct market linkage has proved to be a boon for the women members of the self-help groups. Previously they had an average monthly income of rs.2150. Now after engaging in this project their monthly income is close to rs.12000.

The local residents who would come to the market hoping to get all the paraphernalia in single use plastic carry bags now come to shop with containers and cloth bags which were distributed among them. The success of the pilot project will undoubtedly prove to be a shot in the arm for the administration which is determined to make “Tilottama” plastic free.

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