The Irish government seems to have taken the case of using cloth bags instead of using plastic ones. The tax being levied on the vendors if they used plastic bags will work as a good disuading measure to ensure people stick to more environment friendly cloth bags. I had a different take on this, wherein I suggested that the retailer pass on the cost of the bag to the consumer, and reward the consumer if the consumer reuses the bag. I think the Irish government has taken this to a new level, wherein they introduced a tax on the retailer who delivers goods in a plastic bag to the consumer. This way, the retailer is prodded to be eco-friendly. Also, by making this a country wide affair, the Irish government has taken up a stand which can be followed suit by its citizens.
Now to the ground situation in India. I think we can definitely follow this model. And I think another thing that can be learnt from the Irish model is to encourage the younger generation to be more eco-friendly. Think of it, if the kids in the house chide their parents into not accepting plastic bags from retailers, then the parents are going to pass on that frustration to the retailer(not that parents really want this as an excuse to pass on pent up emotions to shop owners, but that is a completely different topic !). And by providing sops to retailers who are against plastic bags, the government can get more retailers to join the band wagon. Given that the margins are rather minimal in the retail industry, and that the competition is hotting up with more retailers joining the fray, I think the time is ripe for a legislation of this type to be enforced in the nation. Also, this can give the much needed shot in the arm for the Indian cottage industries, who generally are either left for the pricey cottage emporiums, or the over-exploited street side hawkers.
What is it that is stopping the government / the general public in accepting such a proposition ? – the plastics/petrochemicals lobby and tardiness. People generally don’t want to carry the bags that they want to get their supplies in. Like I wrote earlier, somehow it has been part of the being that the plastic bag is a right rather than a service. So, if that part of the game is set right, then people will be interested in being an equal participant. And coming to the lobby – well, that is something that is harder to tackle from a legislative point of view, but very easy to tackle from a consumer behavior point of view. If the consumers are not willing to accept plastic bags, and either get their own cloth bags or if the retailers provide cloth bags, the plastic bags industry will have no choice but to bite the bullet. If the retailers in Bangalore, or even if few of the non-conglomerated supermarkets of this city are willing to try this, they might be able to start a small change within themselves. Even while they wait for some sort of gesture from the government, if people start this small movement, I think the effect will trickle upwards. It might be, a truly grass root movement, if not for a large social change, but atleast for a small effect on the environment. To borrow a line from the wildlife preservation ad – if the using stops, the producing will stop too.