If you use a polyethylene bag in Delhi, India, you could get 5 years or face a 100,000 ruppe fine ($3000 U.S.). But that’s nothin’ compared to how long it takes those nasty bags to decompose.
Said J. K. Dadoo, Delhi’s top environment official,
We want people to understand that they will not get away with (using plastic bags). If they choose to defy the law repeatedly, then the court has the measures necessary to fit.
Delhi lawmakers say they won’t initially be throwing people behind bars for the first offense. After all, there are 16 million people in the capital city, so it may take a while to change ingrained habits.
But they also said that some harsh penalties were needed after a previous law against plastic bags was simply ignored.
As India becomes more Westernized, use of the bags has grown, with environmentalists claiming that 10 million are used on a daily basis in that city alone. They say that not only do the bags take hundreds of years to decompose, they also clog sewer drains, providing a breeding ground for diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
Environmentalists are pleased with the law.
‘I think you need a deterrent,’ said Sanjiv Goyal, of Greenpeace. ‘It might run into trouble if the punishment is too stiff but it may be the incentive required to change people’s behavior. It shows you what can happen with enough political will and commitment.‘
Similar bans have worked in countries like Rwanda, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Now, let’s move on to my nearby grocery store, where I get the hairy eyeball every time I hand them my cloth bag. Oh, the horror! The hassle! The bags that are on sale right next to the cashier! The stupidity.
Image: mathewlees on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.