Himachal Pradesh (India) Plastic Bag Ban

The Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, in India, banned plastic bags way back in 2003, threatening heavy fines (100,000 rupees, or $2,000) and imprisonment for up to seven years for those who disobey the ban. The law--which bans the production, storage, use, sale and distribution of polythene bags--is based on legislation passed by the national parliament, but Himachal Pradesh is the first state to have implemented it.

The official legislation reads as follows:

 The Govt. of Himachal Pradesh vide Notification No.STE-A(3)-4/2003 dated 04.06.2004 has prohibited the use of polythene (and other similar material) carry bags by stockists, traders, retailers and vendors of all kinds of commodities within the State of Himachal Pradesh, if size and thickness of such bags are less than 18"x12" and 70 microns respectively. Hon’ble Chief Minister has also issued a public appeal in leading newspapers in this regard, so that this ban is implemented strictly with effect from 14.06.2004. Some officers have sought clarifications regarding this Government decision. Accordingly, the following points are being conveyed to remove all doubts in the matter: 

 

1.      Measurement of size and thickness: - The use of carry bags with size less than 18"x12" has been completely prohibited irrespective of its thickness. In order to ascertain the thickness of bags being used, the implementing officials must know the mass (commonly referred to its ‘weight’) of a carry bag with threshold dimensions (i.e. 18"x12" and 70 microns). It is informed that a carry bag of 18"x12" and 70 microns thickness weighs on an average, 18 gms (excluding handle, if any). Thus one kilogram of carry bags of threshold dimensions would contain 55 to 56 bags. Since there is likely to be some difference in the exact composition of material used in the bags and also in the type of handle provided, variation of (+/-) 5% can be allowed. In order to ascertain correct mass of a bag of a higher size(say 14"x20"), one only needs to compute its area and then find the mass of such bigger bag proportionally. For instance, the area of a bag of 14"x20" size is 280 square inches against the area of 216 square inches for a 18"x12"size bag. So the mass of a bag with 14"x20" size and 70 microns thick material will be 280/216x18=23.33 gms or about 43 bags in one kilogram.     

 

2.      Shape of carry bags: - The intention of the Govt. is to ensure that the polythene bags used by the stockists, traders, retailers and vendors should be reused again and again by the customer instead of being strewn everywhere. It is with this objective that minimum thickness and size have been prescribed. It is clarified that use of small polythene bags for packing of things done by the traders in violation of Standards of Weights & Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 1977 will not be allowed. Moreover, these bags are likely to be thrown away after material is taken out of these bags. It is true that the ban does not cover the commodities packed in the factories (not only because of some legal limitations, but also because it may result in non-availability of certain consumer goods). However, no analogy can be drawn from this exemption because shopkeepers do have an option of packing loose commodities (like pulses, sugar etc.) in paper bags or other permitted types of containers. To that extent, shape of ‘carry bags’ as given in rule 2 (b) of The Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 (as amended on 17.06.2003) need not remain confined to only two types of bags given therein, as far as notification dated 04.06.2004 is concerned.

 

3.      Date of Enforcement: - It is reiterated that ban is to be enforced without any exception with effect from 14.06.2004 and no extension is being given. In order to have a positive impact of this ban, a sustained campaign must be launched by all the authorised officers with effect from this date only. However, in the first instance, as per these notifications dated 04.06.2004, individual customers are not to be proceeded against.

 

4.      Compounding Fees: - The officers authorised by the State Government should act in accordance with the notification No.STE-A(3)-4/2003 dated 04.06.2004 to determine the sum for compounding. The State Govt.  has laid down definite amounts which have been linked to the quantity of prohibited material recovered. This has been done in order to remove arbitrariness and  unbridled discretion.

 

5.      Reporting/Compounding: - Challan books and compounding books circulated in the field on 31.12.98 vide D.O. letter No STV(Env.)A(10)4/92-I will continue to be used from 14.06.2004 onwards also with the condition that the word pkyku will be replaced by the word fjiksVZ. The officers reporting/compounding will, however, mention in their report/order the dimension, number and mass (weight) of the lot recovered. It is clarified that compounding can be done only by an authorised officer, even though anybody (including members of general public) is legally empowered to file a complaint in the court of law or inform the authorised officer to take further action in this regard. However, it has been decided to entrust the following officials (or those of higher rank with in the same department, but below the rank of authorised officers specifically with the responsibility of making a report in the prescribed form after weighing and measuring the prohibited type of bags:-

Food Inspector, Drug Inspector, Sanitary Inspector, Excise Inspector, Assistant Sub-Inspector(Police), Forest Guard, Kanungo, Panchayat Inspector, Weights and Measures Inspector, Food & Supplies Inspector and Tourism Inspector.

 

For instance, a Sanitary Inspector can make a report to the Assistant Commissioner, Municipal Corporation and the latter only will compound the case (if deemed appropriate by him) for an amount as per  table given in notification dated 04.06.2004. An officer authorised to compound can report himself also. The compounding fees thus collected will be deposited in the following head:

            vk; 'kh"kZ 0070&vU; iz'kklfud lsok;sa

           60&vU; lsok;sa

            800&vU; izkfIr;ka

           09&tho vukf'kr dwM+k&dpjk fu;U=.k½

                vf/kfu;e 1995 ds mYya?ku ij tqekusaZ ls vk;A

6.      Segregation of Non-bio degradable waste: - Even after introduction of ban non biodegradable waste will continue to be generated out of the packaged commodities. The local authorities as defined in The Himachal Pradesh Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 1995 (i.e. Municipal Corporation, Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayat etc.) and legally responsible for providing receptacle or places for deposit of non bio-degradable garbage (Section 4 of the Act ibid). The owners and occupiers of lands and buildings are also expected to segregate the non bio-degradable garbage at the source level only (Section 5). Non-performance of the statutory functions is an offence under the Act. It is requested that both these legal provisions ought to be enforced in letter and spirit, so that the remaining quantity of non bio-degradable garbage also gets recycled.   

7.      Periodic Report: - A monthly report in the format sent along with notification dated 21.05.2001 should be invariably sent to this Department.

8.      Copies of Reporting/ Compounding Books: - Additional copies of Reporting (Challaning)  and Compounding Books are being sent through HRTC courier. These may be collected tomorrow morning.