In recent times if you have visited a large retail store, you may have realized that your bills are getting heavier by Rs 5 – 15/- – But then being paltry sums it may not be really bothering us.
This extra charge is towards the plastic bags and is line with the step taken by the government to reduce usage of plastic bags. This is a well intended but as usual missing the mark kind of hasty policy decision. Is it a mistake in policy making or are the policy makers, associations and lobbying agencies deliberately making a fool of us (once again)?
What is the attempted problem to be solved by this intervention? Reduce usage of plastic carry bags, thereby reduce environmental degradation and becomre more green and sustainable in the process
BUT, what’s actually happening? Retailers tell you to pay for the plastic carry bags (which they used to pay for before)
- In fact, the retailer and / or plastic carry bag manufacturer make more money on plastic as the plastic bag’s price charged to the consumer is anything but ostentatious
- Almost all the consumers continue to use the plastic bags – now apart from using they are paying for it too..
GOOD Intention but BAD policy making! Why?
- Lack of understanding of problem or poor problem definition
- Lack of clear long-term visualization and planning
The intention to reduce the consumption of plastic thereby creating a cleaner and greener environment is a good one that is to be appreciated. The identification of a main point of usage: “volume of plastic carry bags provided at retail stores” was also done well. But the solution is what turned out to be pretty shortsighted! It looks like the energy that was put into arriving at the policy to curtail usage of plastic bags did not sustain till they could arrive at a correct solution.
If we really want to reduce consumption, we have to reduce it or replace it – definitely not increase its cost! Few alternatives that could have been considered:
- Ask stores to refuse plastic carry bags when the number of items bought does not need one
- Provide alternate to carry bags (jute, cloth, paper, etc). One can look at subsidising this cost for retailers and consumers. Infact this on proper implementation may help in upcoming of small scale setups
- Help people carry items till exit and then transfer purchase into their vehicles. Experience of unloading without bags may encourage the consumers to reach for bags as they leave their house.
If we do not reduce consumption of plastic, its impact on sustainability is NOT going to change / reduce.
Paying more (just because we can afford it as a society) is not an alternative to using unsustainable and polluting materials.
Hope we learn to think through and make more useful and positively impactful policies.